Some YouTube channels are bigger than cable

Posted 5 years ago by Michael Estrin

Subscribers and viewers aren’t the same thing. But when you hear about YouTube channels like Smosh passing 8 million subscribers, it makes you wonder if media buyers should think about them like cable channels? After all, 8 million would be a huge number for a lot of cable channels.

Of course, you can’t really sell subscribers. For one thing, there’s no¬†guarantee¬†that a subscriber will watch a video (or any videos) in the time frame that an advertiser wants. Plus, I think it’s fair to say that there’s a quality-driven discount to a Web buy. If it’s on TV, it’s just more legitimate. Sorry, but that’s always going to be the case as long as anyone can advertise online and there’s still some barrier to entry for TV buys.

But here’s the big question: can Smosh offer scale?

I think Smosh is either there or getting there. If 8 million subscribers isn’t enough, they’ve got to be close to achieving scale, right?

Sure, they’re content is amateurish and silly, but it has an audience, and it’s clearly a relevant cultural reference point for the 25 and under crowd.

So if you’re brand is trying to reach young people, it’s hard to see why you wouldn’t want to experiment with a Smosh-only campaign.