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How Fullscreen Became a YouTube Giant (Almost) Overnight

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The fact that Strompolos moved away from YouTube and founded his own company is symbolic of how the most interesting work on YouTube doesn’t actually happen at YouTube. While YouTube’s execs can throw money at channel creation, as with its $100 million original channel initiative, that doesn’t guarantee success. More often it’s people outside the company who see the opportunities YouTube offers.

“They developed a platform and I think that’s where their core skillset lies: creating a great platform, letting people have the technology to communicate with all of these people,” Gahan says. “Where MCNs and a lot of other people in the ecosystem are finding the big opportunities is in becoming category specific experts. How can we help brands and the talent work together in a hands-on way?

“At the core, that’s okay because those guys -- they’re Google, they’re tech guys. Not to say we aren’t -- I think we are -- but we’re really focused on bridging these two worlds which are not speaking the same language most of the time -- like very much so not speaking the same language. So I’m not necessarily complaining that YouTube’s focus isn’t necessarily aligning with that day-to-day.”

How Fullscreen Will Grow

What’s ahead for Fullscreen will mirror what’s ahead for YouTube, and Gahan sees a lot of changes coming to YouTube. For one thing, it won’t feel as geared toward young viewers.

“YouTube rolled out an initiative about how they’re going to really try and clean up a lot of the YouTube comments. So they’re pushing basically towards having your real name as your login and that’s part of the Google+ integration. They’re pushing a lot more of the community and social media features,” notes Gahan. “I think a couple of things will happen as a result. One, you’ll see a lot more quality comments. Two, I think you’ll see it expand and become more of an approachable platform for a wider audience, because right now it’s definitely skewed young. People who maybe never logged into YouTube will actually go and participate versus just watching it not logged in or just when it’s embedded on a blog.”

By placing an emphasis on subscribing to favorite channels and getting people to sign in with their real names, YouTube will change its culture. Anonymous comments lead to some pretty raucous discussions on YouTube, and that makes the site seem inhospitable to many viewers. As YouTube adopts more social media best practices, people familiar with social networks will respond, Gahan believes.

As YouTube becomes more hospitable to older viewers, they’ll subscribe more often to the channels that appeal to them, and come back to watch new content. That should boost the viewership of channels that appeal to mature viewers and lead to an expanding field of YouTube talent.

“I would say that’s where the biggest opportunity is moving forward. Right now, we’re set, we’ve got tons of millennials, but I think there’s a big opportunity to expand beyond that moving forward,” Gahan says. “I think diversity is really important.”

One area where Fullscreen hopes to see a lot of growth is in ad revenue. The point of an MCN is to attract TV ad dollars to online video, and there’s still much to attract.

“I’m not going to shy away from the fact that we want those dollars. We want the big Super Bowl budgets, absolutely. And it’s interesting because we can deliver on those more efficiently. And we’ve got an insane amount of scale and the engagement that can be driven within this category is pretty solid,” Gahan says. “There’s a lot of room to grow in terms of revenue. I would say right now people who are advertising are probably getting a great deal, comparatively speaking.”

The key right now is encouraging community: building large audiences of like-minded viewers that will increase subscriber counts and help promote channels they love.

“The value, I think, in the long run lies with building that community and being able to leverage that for any number of opportunities,” Gahan says.

As the YouTube world continues to change, look for young and dynamic Fullscreen to stay one step ahead.

This article appears in the December 2013 issue of Streaming Media magazine as "How Fullscreen Became a YouTube Giant (Almost) Overnight."

The Fullscreen Creator Platform offers “a one- stop shop hub for most everything you need as a creator,” says Fullscreen’s Brendan Gahan.

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