For many content creators, YouTube is the go-to starting point to launch and grow their audience. And with over 1.8 billion users every month, YouTube’s dominating presence in online video isn’t shrinking anytime soon. Even so, the world’s second-largest search engine seldom serves as a reliable source revenue for creators: one study found that even channels with 1.4 million views per month bring in less than $17,000 per year.
Just as consumers’ viewing habits shift away from pricey cable subscriptions, creators are finding new opportunity in “over-the-top” (OTT) platforms as a viable way to generate revenue from their content.
Prodigies, a music curriculum for children ages 2-12, skipped the algorithm wrangling on YouTube, and instead went straight to monetizing their content with Vimeo OTT. Now, their content is available across the web, iOS, tvOS, Android, Roku, and Amazon fireTV apps.
Thinking about launching your own subscription service? Get the lowdown with our Five Reasons to Launch a Subscription Service guide.
“We knew we could do more for kids”
Rob Young, a former music teacher and founder of Prodigies, wanted to give parents and teachers an affordable way to introduce their children to music from an early age. Using a blend of tactile learning with online streaming, Prodigies teaches music to learners of all levels, from simple call-and-response activities, to advanced lessons on music theory.
Rob knew from the beginning that his business strategy was not not going to succeed for the long term in a competitive, ad-based landscape like YouTube. “Prodigies’ content is more niche than, say, a general children’s video on YouTube,” he says. “We knew we could do more for kids by developing a curriculum that was based in music theory, offered clear steps, and included supplementary materials.”
“We also wanted to monetize from the get-go,” Rob says, referencing the added challenge of YouTube Kids’ ongoing algorithm tweaks in their effort to provide more age-appropriate and safe content. The algorithm updates have been so vast, in fact, that Rob has colleagues whose YouTube revenue streams (on which they rely for income), have totally changed in recent months, forcing them to revise their existing content and revisit their future content strategy.
Finding an affordable OTT service
After experiencing a few hiccups with building their own website, Rob and his business partner looked into developing an OTT app on their own to expand their reach. Based on their needs to distribute content across platforms and devices, as well as have an integrated content management system (CMS) that would provide them the autonomy to add new content regularly, Rob was quoted between quarter and half a million dollars. “I thought to myself, ‘Cool, that’s never gonna happen,’” Rob says.
In spring 2018, Rob learned about Vimeo OTT, and quickly saw it met his business needs, and then some. “I told my business partner, ‘This is what we’ve needed for three years now,’” Rob says. “All of a sudden we were going from a rinky-dink, three-person team, to a mini Netflix.”
By distributing their content across the web, TV, and mobile apps, Rob provides flexibility to his customers to use Prodigies’ videos in whatever way works best for them. Whether it’s guilt-free screen time for parents, or a classroom with 1:1 tablets, branded apps have added a competitive edge their business was once missing. “It’s a total game changer, especially for kids content,” Rob say. “It’s really exciting.”
Creating (and scaling) content creation
Vimeo OTT provides the autonomy Prodigies needs to churn out content at a fast pace. “Even though the Vimeo team works on building the apps, we still have direct control,” Rob says. “I don’t have to tell a third party that we want a certain video going out on a certain day — we can do it in an instant.” Given the small size and scrappiness of his team, maintaining ownership of their content distribution is instrumental for keeping their customers happy and content fresh.
Creating new content, and creating it quickly, is critical for Prodigies’ long-term growth. During their first few years in business, Rob and his team quickly identified new demographics for revenue.
While initially established to give parents and preschool teachers tools to teach toddlers pitch and music, they soon found opportunities in older age groups. “We thought this was going to be for parents at home, and maybe for preschool teachers, but we ended up getting a lot of elementary school teachers, because that’s where the bulk of music education happens,” he said.
To that end, the Prodigies team works hard to create new and relevant content for their diversifying (and growing) user base. “We’re not a big company who’s planning releases three or six months in advance,” he says. “We do a lot of stuff under the gun, so having direct control over when we release content is really big for us.”
Seasonal promotions drive subscriptions
Rob and his team have found success with offer time-pegged discounts or content offerings based on the time of year. Seasonal promotions are a great way to share content that gives prospective customers a taste of what a full subscription can offer. “We’ll do ‘5 Little Pumpkins’ for October, or ‘Albuquerque Turkey’ for Thanksgiving,” he says. Thematic content isn’t just for attracting new customers, though. “We find that it helps existing customers stay involved and engaged,” Rob says.
A small business with big reach
Through partnering with Vimeo OTT, Rob and the Prodigies team have made a sustainable business to distribute children’s content across the web, TV, and mobile apps, without the worry of besting a search algorithm.
“Making that professional, tech-savvy look available to the layman, or anybody who wants to make videos, is huge,” Rob says. “Vimeo helped us focus on what we do best, as opposed to working on technical projects.”