While disputes between YouTube channel partners and Multi-Channel Networks networks is nothing new, there is now a third party getting involved: YouTube itself.
News broke today that creators will be able to click a link within their YouTube accounts to notify the powers that be at the world’s largest video sharing site they want to be freed from their associated MCN. That click will initiate a documented workflow between the creator and his or her network where the two parties can communicate about the channel’s potential departure. But note, this new feature is not an eject button. The MCN will presumably still have the final say if the channel is free to go. The link will simply start a streamlined process that will hopefully result in more timely and less litigious partings of ways.
YouTube will also implement initiatives that will require networks to provide more transparency about their value proposition and benefits to both YouTube and their creators.
It’s a big move by YouTube to make sure MCNs are behaving properly and it’s going to have interesting ramifications for the industry. Among the benefits, the added value by a network will now have to be made clear and easy to find. In order for an MCN to be able to operate, YouTube deems they must offer such things as “dedicated partner management, technology/tools, production facilities, promotion, channel optimization, advertising sales support, and/or other services.”
Disputes between networks and creators are now becoming a bit more public than they once were (or maybe it’s just that more people are now interested in the news), so networks will need to keep partners happy by making sure anything promised is delivered and delivering on many of the benefits outlined in the language above. This action may also require networks to be more selective and focused on the type of creators they partner, as it would enable them to streamline the added value they can offer creators. It isn’t easy to create a scalable solution for channels that cover multiple genres, but by focusing on one genre, it could make support processes, sales, promotion, and more much easier to deliver and more cost effective.
On the downside, this may lead to an increase in poaching. As I’ve written before, poaching can have a negative effect on both networks and creators. YouTube’s new features may not necessarily make it easier for a creator to get out of a contract, but it could help to accelerate some departures. Other MCNs will surely keep this in mind and may dangle more carrots (and cash) out in front of those creators in hopes of luring them to a new network.
YouTube seemingly has no desire to interfere with the agreement between creators and networks, including what happens outside of the video sharing site. That has the potential to make things complicated for creators. Even if YouTube can help a creator leave a network, YouTube is only helping him or her do so on YouTube. The creator’s channel will only be able to leave the network’s YouTube content management system. If part of the agreement is the exhibition of the creator’s work on a separate platform, the creator is going to be out of luck if he or she wants out. Any place outside of YouTube is obviously out of YouTube’s control.
Most multi-channel networks are now focused on becoming multi-platform networks, so it’s going to be interesting to see how this plays out. Perhaps content creators may partner with multiple networks instead of one. “I’m Maker Studios for YouTube, Defy Media for all my off-YouTube videos and I’m repped by UTA,” might be the kind of answer a YouTuber would give to the question, “Who are you with?” in the not-so-distant future.
There is still a lot unknown about this change by YouTube, but it will be interesting to see how it effects the relationship between networks and creators, as well as between YouTube and the networks.