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Making Sense of YouTube


Strategies for harnessing the power of YouTube and other free video platforms in serving young viewers were debated at a TV Kids Festival panel featuring Entertainment One’s Yannick Ferrero,’s David B. Williams, Cloudco Entertainment’s Sean Gorman and Kartoon Channel! Worldwide’s Paul Robinson.

The panel with Ferrero, senior VP of digital distribution at Entertainment One (eOne); Williams, senior VP and general manager of channels for; Robinson, managing director of Kartoon Channel! Worldwide at Genius Brands International; and Gorman, the president of Cloudco, was moderated by TV Kids’ Anna Carugati. You can watch the entire session here.

“One of the things that is so exciting about YouTube is it’s the most data-rich environment we’ve ever had and the richest with engagement as well,” said Williams. “Sometimes I call it the Galapagos Islands of media because it’s like this incredibly fiercely competitive environment where you see all these new forms of life evolve. We’ve learned kids like watching other kids do stuff, including hanging out with their parents.”

Robinson concurred that the “richness of the data is extraordinary.” He also noted that the platform has proven that you don’t necessarily always need big budgets and    high production values to forge a connection with kids. “If you can engage kids, it’s not about the production cost; it’s not about complexity sometimes.”

“We’ve also noted the shift of devices,” Ferrero said. “Before, there was much more consumption on mobile. In the last few years, TV, especially the connected-TV experience, has gained share. The device shift is really important. And the shared experience between parents and the kids is also a trend we’ve noted on the platform.”

Ferrero also referenced the importance of YouTube metrics. “To a certain extent, we believe that views are a little bit less important nowadays because it depends as well on the duration of the video. You can buy some views. We like to focus more on metrics and audience retention when we look at KPIs on the platform.”

YouTube “is essential to your brand plan,” said Gorman, “whether it’s native to AVOD or a classic brand. For anyone who wants brand success and stickiness, YouTube is, if not front and center, certainly crucial to have a great strategy and plan and execution. Everyone recognizes that you have to work together, at least at the moment, to make things work and break through in a noisy, crowded environment.”

Kartoon Channel! is available on multiple platforms, including traditional pay TV, AVOD/FAST and SVOD, “so the windowing of that content gets more and more complex,” Robinson explained. “I think we’re moving away from exclusive, but some customers still say it’s on YouTube, and we don’t want to pay for it. So we have to try to ensure that we deliver value to our paying customers, but at the same time, we want to build the brand. That’s about careful windowing, creating different content and using shorts. But ultimately, if you want to build a brand, you need to have a YouTube strategy. There’s no question about that.”

“It’s certainly not a foregone conclusion that success on YouTube is going to equate to a successful toy line, for example,” Williams added. “We’ve shown it certainly can, but it’s not a rule.”

However, he continued, “Success with content on YouTube does translate into success on other streaming platforms. We have built a great business in harvesting that content from YouTube. We have to do a lot to optimize, repackage it at scale and make it great for these premium platforms.”

Gorman noted, “YouTube is in some ways the most vetted, revered platform of success. It gives everyone the comfort level of a presold property, which is great in this environment. It doesn’t have to be something that has sold 10,000 books or come from a deep IP vault.”

He continued, “We wouldn’t do anything now—new brand, old brand—without having some original plan for YouTube content that is the same but different and works for that platform but also can cross-pollinate other things we’re doing.”

Ferrero expressed a similar sentiment for eOne and Hasbro, noting, “It’s essential as part of our brand-building strategies to gain awareness. Even more than monetization for us, it’s awareness. It’s making sure that we deliver newness to our shows and that we reinvent our brand so that it converts for the retailers as well. Our retailers and licensees are keen to understand the key metrics we deliver on the platform. We talk to them regularly about those as well. We have a trust relationship with the broadcasters, the streamers, to make sure that some of the content we post on YouTube will be a different value proposition.”

From Robinson’s perspective, “The key to making a YouTube channel work is consistency, making sure you’re refreshing, managing things properly. I think YouTube has reminded us of some of the essentials of really smart programming.”

Gorman agreed, stating, “YouTube does give you that kind of old-school appointment viewing that can drive engagement and awareness in a consistent way. It bridges the gap from a timing perspective when 12 episodes have dropped, and you have to wait for the second season on an SVOD platform.”

YouTube viewing trends are also informing the development process, Williams said. “It promotes new discipline as we develop and produce shows. We think a lot about what the YouTube environment has told us over the years about what’s effective. It’s such a brutally competitive environment, so it just imposes a discipline on our craft that I think is just at a new level. You can’t luxuriate in the expository phase of your story the way maybe you could 10 or 20 years ago. You’ve got to get to it. Things that ring false and inauthentic raise red flags now. We say, ‘Are kids going to like this? Is it as relatable as it should be?’”

The data also informs creativity, Ferrero said. “We know the latest trends; we can spot different white spaces, what works, what’s evergreen on the platform. It supports the creative process and limits your margin of error.”

Williams brought up the role of gameplay on YouTube. “If they’re not playing video games, they still want to be in those worlds and be engaged with that aesthetic. We’ve been developing a number of shows that integrate game engines, which also is a tremendously efficient platform for producing content at scale, and partnering with creators who have made big successes out of content based on video gameplay. A whole assortment of gaming worlds have just become these environments that kids want to spend time with.”

Kartoon Channel! is also “leaning into gaming,” Robinson said before discussing the crucial role of properly managing a YouTube channel. “You’ve got to make sure you continue offering them new things. Be consistent and clear about the editorial you’re sending, but also make sure you update it regularly. The absolute volume is not such a big issue, but there’s got to be enough to ensure you don’t go away because you’ve seen everything.”

Ferrero agreed that consistency is critical. “Make sure there’s enough newness in the overall content because otherwise, it could be penalized by the algorithm. We need to make sure that there’s a certain level of refresh. It depends, of course, on your age demo. If you target younger kids, maybe the newness is a bit less important. Our rule of thumb in terms of frequency of the uploads is at least three a week.”

Success on YouTube “takes a lot of time, a lot of experimentation, a lot of content,” Williams explained. “In the kids’ space, it’s become more difficult recently from an economic standpoint. YouTube monetizes kids’ content at a fraction of the rate it used to, and that adult content monetizes at because of the targeting limitations. When considering investments, especially in a new brand on YouTube, it needs to be approached with tremendous diligence and an expectation of a long runway and deep investments.”

“We don’t invest just in YouTube for that reason,” Robinson agreed. “It’s very hard to make your money back. We try to get our content out to kids in as many different ways as we can and on as many different platforms. It’s about managing that content smartly so you can get it everywhere.”

Robinson referenced the multiplatform success of CoComelon. “It used to be, you’ve got to have an exclusive show, and you lock it behind some paywall. It’s probably not the right strategy. We would only monetize [content] on the basis of leveraging across all the different platforms and also wanting to drive licensing and merchandising. That’s something that you probably do need to go beyond YouTube for. Licensees are still looking for free TV and pay TV and streaming platforms, as well as YouTube. To manage your risk, we like to try and publish as widely and as deeply as possible.”

Ferrero concurred, adding, “The multiplatform strategy is also key to us. YouTube, in terms of monetization, has taken a hit since the Made for Kids changes. It was essential to protect kids’ privacy. The primary goal has always been to generate engagement with our brands on the platform. Monetization would be a secondary goal, so it’s less of an impact. Although we’ve noted these changes, it hasn’t impacted our overall strategy on the platform.”

It’s a similar approach at Cloudco, Gorman said. “You want to have this multiplatform strategy. You want it to be thoughtful. You want everything to work to help drive brand awareness. That’s our default. It’s not monetization. I think that would be a super tough business model.”

Williams said that has “different release strategies for different objectives. Certainly, we have a ubiquity release strategy that heavily leans into YouTube. If we’re launching a toy line, for example, we will have content that’s launching on Ryan’s YouTube channel or Diana’s YouTube channel, with their billions of views. But then it’s also great to maybe package an exclusive special. We take content from YouTube and then create a 22- or 44-minute special, where 90 percent of the special is just the repackaged content, we do like a little original stuff, and then we can bring it to a streamer exclusively. Now we have them as a big promotional partner, reaching those eyeballs off YouTube. That includes the licensing and merchandising folks and advertisers in a way that YouTube maybe doesn’t reach as effectively. You have to look at a mix of platforms to achieve your particular goals. To move consumer products, you want to light them all up.”

At eOne, there’s a My Little Pony CGI series on Netflix and a 2D version on YouTube. “That was a way for Netflix to benefit from the YouTube audience and vice versa,” Ferrero said. “That was a great example of a streamer like Netflix recognizing the value of using the content or creating rather similar content, but a little bit different and then benefiting from the YouTube audience.”

Carugati then asked the panelists to discuss where AVOD and FAST sit in their overall windowing strategies.

“We love the FAST channels and streamers,” Williams said. “We have two linear FAST channels that are ubiquitous across the ecosystem. We also have an SVOD channel, Ryan and Friends Plus, which is currently on Amazon Prime Channels, and we are expanding to other distribution outlets. When we look at those objectives, where can we drive maximum enterprise value? I was talking about that packaged special–we might window that into our SVOD service first. Give it a 30-day exclusive window, promote it, use it to drive subscribers and then window it to one of the big FAST players. Roku is a great example. They put it at the top of their service on their home page for the holidays and drive enormous engagement in that phase of the window. Once it comes out of that window, maybe that’s not till next year, but next year, we’ve got that special again for FAST and more of a ubiquity strategy. Through that whole lifecycle, we’re just generating tremendous amounts of value.”

Robinson said windowing strategies “vary depending on the brand. If it’s well-known, you can put it behind a paywall, behind our SVOD service. People are going to go there because they know the brand. If they don’t know the brand, you probably want to window it first on a FAST or linear channel, build some awareness and then put it behind the paywall. Ultimately, you’ve got to build awareness before trying to charge money for it. Unless you bundle it onto a pay service. What’s nice about pay is that the platform pays you a fixed amount of money, and it’s a channel so you can put your famous shows in there and your library shows, and they all do a job for you. If you’re in an SVOD environment, you’ve got to make sure that that title gets its share of voice. Otherwise, people aren’t going to come to it. If you dump something in SVOD, you might be disappointed unless you’ve done all the homework. So YouTube would be crucial to building awareness. But the model of what goes first varies from market to market.”

Regarding exclusivity for free and pay broadcasters and SVOD platforms, Ferrero has seen more openness to having content on YouTube. “We need to build trust with the broadcasters and SVOD clients to make sure that they benefit as well from these YouTube audiences. It can also be a great marketing tool for the audiences to discover that content and then have it packaged differently on TV or SVOD. As long as we are transparent with our partners, they can benefit from that. There’s scale on YouTube, and everyone can benefit.”

“There’s been an evolution,” Williams said. “There was a time, even as soon as a couple of years ago, when the YouTube exploitation looked like baggage, and there was a reluctance, especially when they think about [the impact on] subscriber acquisition. We would get into some fairly big conversations about that. We’d bring a lot of data to the table and insist that this was not the case. That’s proven out. These platforms recognize the power of kids’ retention. That said, I also see a new appetite for exclusives. I talked about these exclusive specials. We love the mantra ‘come for the original, stay for the library.’ That is also really resonating with buyers and programmers.”

It’s been the same experience for Gorman. “Everyone sees that there’s some win-win, certainly on a promotional basis, and particularly when you’re doing a lot of originals that are not being marketed, just released, and the algorithm takes over. It’s certainly not remotely close to a free for all. It’s got to be strategic, proactively articulated, laid out and vetted.” has built a thriving business by using YouTube as a hub for discovering new talent. “It’s like we have 40 producer stringers out there independently producing content for us,” Williams said. “It’s gotten a little bit more complicated with Made for Kids. It’s changed the signal-to-noise ratio. It’s changed some of the formulas we might look at, the frameworks to determine success. We always vet our creative partners extensively. We want to make sure there’s alignment in values and aspirations. We try to equip them with guidance to make sure that they’re producing in responsible ways. But I would also say it takes a unique expertise and company culture to effectively work with YouTube talent. We built a culture to do it.”

The session wrapped with a conversation about promoting discoverability on YouTube.

“The distribution approach is really important,” Ferrero said. “There’s a test-and-learn approach. We use a combination of SEO and optimization. We work on clickability as well. We use paid media also to increase discoverability. We spend a lot of time in YouTube analytics, reviewing the retention graphs and analyzing when the retention starts to drop. This systematic approach, building consistency, helps promote discoverability on YouTube.”

Robinson agreed, adding, “You’ve just got to make sure that throughout you’ve got fantastic thumbnails, it’s easy to find and attractive to look at and use the data. Optimize, optimize, optimize.”

About Mansha Daswani

Mansha Daswani is the editor-in-chief and associate publisher of World Screen. She can be reached on


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