Amazon Video Direct Lowers Prime Streaming Royalty

I’ve pretty much told everyone who will listen that if you’re a filmmaker doing short films, AVD, not Youtube, is the place to be. Especially since the new YPP policy at Youtube is about to take effect. I have made way, way more off a few short films on Amazon Video than I ever did off of Youtube.

Apparently Amazon woke up to how sweet the deal was, and has just announced that they are drastically reducing the royalty rate for videos watched through Amazon Prime streaming.

Previously videos watched with Prime got $0.15 per hour of video watched (In the US). Titles submitted through AVD had a maximum cap royalty of $75,000 per year per title.

Some people were upset about that cap. But to reach it your video had to be streamed for 500,000 hours. If you’ve got content that popular, it might be time to work with a distributor that can bypass the Amazon Video Direct system and go directly with Amazon.

The new royalty rates eliminate that cap. Which is good, I guess. And the new rates are for all territories. Not just the US. The new rate is what AVD paid for other territories outside the US. And while the rate drops a lot, you can earn higher rates if your videos are watched a lot.

The new rates are tiered based on hours of viewing PER TITLE. Up to 99,999 hours you get $0.06 per hour. That’s right, the rate drops by almost 2/3 in the US. This will put me right about the Youtube payment range. Most short films will never hit this amount of viewing time.

If you have 100,000 hours of viewing, the rate increases to $0.10 per hour. Over 500,000 hours and you’re back to $0.15 per hour. But cross 1,000,000 hours and you drop back to $0.06 again.

In order to reach the $0.15 per hour rate again, you have to have 500,000 hours of viewing. So the cap is gone, but it takes longer to hit $75,000.

($75,000 in royalties? Who are we kidding? How many indie filmmakers hit 500,000 hours of viewing on Amazon?)

A 5 minute long short film would need to be watched in its entirety 1,200,000 times in a year before that title could make $0.10 per viewing hour, which is still 1/3 less than the original royally. A 2 hour movie would need to be watched 50,000 times to hit that same royalty rate.

So, why? Why is Amazon doing this? Here’s what they say:

“The tiered structure allows us to align the Prime Subscription Access rate with the level of customer engagement generated by each individual title or season (more engaging titles earn a higher royalty rate). By doing so, we offer a few advantages for providers, including elimination of the title-level annual earnings cap and expanded earnings potential in territories outside the U.S.”

I get it. I’ve seen some bad videos on Amazon Prime. And even though I have short films on Amazon, I know most people don’t sit down at the TV and look for short films. So Amazon is making it less lucrative for creators who pump out bad or short content, and focusing on content that keeps viewers engaged for longer; because it’s good enough that people watch more of it and because it’s literally longer.

But, man it stinks for short film creators. Up to this point AVD was a good way to make a little extra cash for your efforts. Not major money, but better than the alternatives. Now that Youtube has put the clamp on casual creators, AVD is still the best outlet for short content. But the paycheck is about to get a lot smaller than it already was.

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It’s Not Me, It’s You…Tube

Youtube is breaking up with me. But it’s not me, it’s You…tube.

Last week Youtube changed the requirements of partner channels, effectively killing their partner relationships with all casual creators. This is my somewhat tongue-and-cheek commentary on the subject.

Ok, that’s a bit satirically-sappy, but there are a couple of things that are serious.

Youtube was built by smaller channels. The vast majority of the 300 HOURS of content uploaded every minute is uploaded to small channels. Without those channels, Youtube wouldn’t be the 2nd largest search engine in the world.

Any channel, of any size, can upload content that helps or entertains others. Youtube should not ignore that. Partner status isn’t about getting money as much as it’s about Youtube recognizing that your channel contributes in a positive way to the community. We are literally partners. Casual creators can and have helped Youtube as a business and platform. This move signals a lack of appreciation and respect for those channels.

That’s the big deal. I saw a few videos of people talking about how people shouldn’t be upset because the money they are losing is very small. They’ve missed the point entirely.

I always looked being a Youtube Partner as being in an actual partnership. I contributed to that relationship in some small part, and Youtube appreciated that relationship. So they shared a little of what I helped them earn. Not because it was a big payout, but because we were partners.

I felt a certain amount of loyalty to the platform. We were partners. I was a part of making it successful. They appreciated my videos, and I felt like I was helping people. And helping Youtube sell ads. My content was helping make Youtube a place where people could search for answers, or entertainment.

Turns out, Youtube just doesn’t care about channels like mine. I didn’t change, Youtube did. Youtube doesn’t care about the very channels that help make up the massive amount of content that is searched and served billions of times.

YouTube Drops the Hammer on Casual Creators

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Got an email from Youtube today saying they are raising the bar on monetized channels. New minimum levels are 1000 subscribers and 4000 hours watched in a 12 month period. Pretty low overall… but it’s a hurdle for new/casual creators.

I have (had) 2 channels that are (were) monetized. One was for my show from a few years ago. It saw decent traffic when it was active, but no new content has been posted in years. I was just leaving the episodes online so people could find them. Most people see them on Amazon Prime, not Youtube. That channel is losing monetization. it will never reach the new bar for views or subscribers.

My other channel is more active, but I’m not sure I’m seeing 4000 hours of viewing annually. I’ve got several thousand views on some videos. I do not have 1000 subscribers. So, that channel will be de monetized soon, I’m sure.

This move really hits casual creators. I’m never doing a daily Vlog. I’m busy, and only post occasionally. I have chosen YT as the outlet for that because it is the 2nd largest search engine in the world and every month my stupid, little videos give me a very small amount of money. (Think fast food lunch, or afternoon Coke.) But hey, free money. And maybe someone can use the content, or is entertained.

So I put up with the overzealous content ID system, and the trolls and the ugly interface and the compression.

Youtube says that 99% of the channels affected by the new changes made less than $100 last year. They make it clear that their priority is for channels making a living off Youtube. Casual creators like myself are not considered.

I get why, to some extent. Youtube wants good, new, and consistent content to keep people coming back. more people means more advertisers. And after some advertisers to mad about being sown on some weird/bad videos, they have been working to protect that ad revenue. I can see why they would want more growing channels with larger audiences, and less small channels.

I don’t have consistent content I post every week, but a few videos on my channel have been really helpful to viewers. A few simple tech tips about how to use old lenses on modern cameras, and testing video gear, etc., have really helped some viewers. Or so they say in my comments. Youtube is removing the incentive to make any more of these. Or at least, the incentive to post them on Youtube… (Vimeo anyone?)

I wonder how this move will affect the ecosystem. Less casual creators, more intentional channels. Could be good, but will it, overall, lower the volume of video uploaded? Will that make it easier to have content noticed? What will be the fallout, if any?

Personally, what stops me from switching to Vimeo? Is the search function on YT worth it? I’m not sure. Let’s see how things progress.

Youtube, Copyright, DMCA and AdRev

CopyrightThis morning I got a copyright claim notice from Youtube about a video I created using a song from a Digital Juice library.

That sounds worse than it is. First, I used the content legally. I purchased the right to use it in this fashion. So the claim will eventually be dismissed.

Second, even if I did “steal” the song, Youtube won’t pull it, they just place advertisements on the idea and give the money to the people who own the rights to it.

It’s annoying because I didn’t use it without having the right to do so. And now, for a while at least, I won’t get the revenue (however small) from any advertising on that video. It’s also annoying because the claim came through a very slimy company called AdRev. And a concern because Youtube takes copyright violations very seriously from it’s partner channels.

AdRev is a company that exists for the sole purpose of generating advertising revenue from Youtube content. Their selling point is that they can help content creators to monetize use of their content on “unauthorized, unofficial, and fan videos using your music.”  For a cut of the revenue, their computers scour the massive content on Youtube for music that matches their client’s library. Then they exercise their Digital Millennium Copyright Act  (DMCA) muscle and inform Youtube that a copyright infringement has occurred, and they would like to collect the money from any advertising on that content.

They do not contact the Youtube channel first, they just hijack the ad revenue, forcing the channel owner to prove they did not steal the content. In this (civil) case, guilty until you can prove your innocence. This isn’t the first time I’ve had this same company file claim (erroneously) on a video. Every time I have been able to get the claim removed. But it’s a hassle.

While legally they do not have to contact me before filing a claim, ethically, they should. It’s a slime-ball maneuver to steal my ad revenue this way. It’s not like I’m taking radio hits and using them as music beds. These are royalty-free, buy-out music tracks that are designed expressly for use in projects and videos like this one. It is highly likely that anyone using them will have the license to do so, because they are created and sold for this purpose.

I have mixed feelings about the DMCA in that, as a content creator, I’m glad that I can easily dispute the use of my copyrighted work. I do not like that without a hearing of any kind, companies like Youtube will immediately divert the ad revenue from a given video to the people claiming to own it. In my case, we’re talking pennies. But this is big enough business that companies like AdRev exist. They make enough from this sort of thing to keep on doing it.

A larger concern for me is that I am a Youtube Partner, and in order to maintain that status (and access to higher dollar ad sharing, etc…) I have to stay in good standing with Youtube. Part of that means no copyright violations. I don’t make the huge money from Youtube video ad revenue. This video won’t pay out a whole $1 in the month this dispute will last. But it’s still something from the effort involved in creating the content.

I know I didn’t violate copyright. But now I have to send proof that I can use this music track the way I did.

Youtube always initially sides with the people making the claim. They will immediately divert any revenue, or place advertisements on any content with DMCA disputes. They do not want to get sued by content creators, music studios, movie studios, etc… The last thing Youtube wants is to be thought of as place where people can violate copyright law. They are super strict, and err on the side of “don’t sue us”. That’s great if you have had your content stolen. Bad if someone makes an invalid claim against your content.

How do I get the claim removed?

This time was a bit different than previous claims, since the company I bought the music license from has undergone some changes in recent years. Previously, the simplest way to get the claim removed was to contact the rep for the music company, and they contacted AdRev to get the claim cleared. Since Digital Juice has switched to a subscription model, I am not sure how much action they will take on “legacy” customer’s behalf. I decided to attack this from 3 directions.

I gathered the details of the purchase (dates, order ID, etc…). I emailed Digital Juice’s customer service, filed a dispute with Youtube over the claim, and emailed AdRev directly. In all three instances I outlined the facts, and provided details about when I purchased the license for the track and copied the end user agreement for the content which says I can use it this way.

So, this can play out 3 ways. Digital Juice may contact AdRev and get them to remove the claim. AdRev may process my complaint and remove the claim. Or, after 30 days, Youtube should resolve the dispute in my favor.

UPDATE: That was quick.

Email from AdRev saying the claim was released. And an email from Digital Juice saying that the claim from Ad Rev is not from them, and they provided me with documents proving they own the song, and that I can use it.

It all sounds very fishy to me. The claim was removed.

I sent this reply to AdRev:

“Just so you know, Digital Juice provided me with information proving they own this copyright, and no one else. And they were not the ones who hired you. Someone is using your company to file fraudulent and inaccurate infringement claims. You guys should look into that. “

AdRev responded with “the claim is now removed” again.