YouTube Boasts $30 Billion in Payments as Creator Wars Heat Up

Social media companies have thrown considerable resources and money at online creators in recent years. YouTube would like to remind everyone that it throws the most.

The media arm of Alphabet Inc.’s Google announced on Monday that it shares advertising sales with over 2 million video producers. YouTube also said it has paid out more than $30 billion to creators in the past three years from ads, merchandising and other service features.

The company says it laid the groundwork for that growth by cleaning up the site for advertisers.

“Our responsibility as a global platform has created this place that works,” Neal Mohan, YouTube’s chief product officer, said in an interview. 

YouTube began splitting ad sales with creators in 2007, eventually forming a sprawling system with few governing rules. That blew up when advertisers boycotted YouTube over inappropriate videos. At the start of 2018, the service drastically cut the number of paid channels, focusing on ones that met viewership thresholds and guidelines. 

Now that number is growing again, even if it’s not back up to pre-2018 levels. YouTube said the number of new channels in its ads program doubled during 2020. 

Major rivals like Facebook Inc., TikTok and Spotify Technology SA have all tried to lure creators from YouTube with tools and payments -- although none has made significant progress so far. Facebook has even pledged not to take commissions from creators until 2023, an effort to jump-start growth. 

YouTube takes 45% of most video ad sales. Mohan said there are no plans to change that. 

“When I talk to creators, it’s always about growing the overall pie,” Mohan said. “A share of $10 is always better than the share of $1.”

YouTube also splits ad money with traditional media outlets that run videos. Mohan declined to say how much of the $30 billion figure went to those companies, but he said that a “huge, huge chunk” of the sum went to independent creators and musicians.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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