Brands can reach audience for Web video stars via direct influencer deals and programmatic channels that are less labor intensive
Some ad buyers are starting to wonder whether working with multichannel networks—the high-flying collectives of Web video talent known in the industry as “MCNs”–is worth all the trouble.
In the last five years, MCNs such as Maker Studios, Fullscreen, Stylehaul and many others became buzzy media upstarts ostensibly for their ability to help advertisers connect with digital creators and influencers—and their young, TV-avoiding fans. They started out selling ads across YouTube channels centered on themes like gaming but evolved into part talent agencies and part production firms for YouTube stars, eventually branching out to platforms beyond the Google-owned video site.
These middlemen brokering deals between brands and social influencers also attractedmajor investments along the way; for instance, Walt Disney Co.’s $500 million cashpurchase of Maker in 2014 that also came with hefty payouts if Maker hits performance targets.
But now, as major MCNs like Whistle Sports and Studio71 make their pitches to advertisers this week and next during the annual “NewFronts,” the question is whether ad buyers are still as receptive to their messages.
“I think there is a little bit of a hangover going into the NewFronts this year,” said Donald Williams, chief digital officer at the media buying firm Horizon Media. “Brands are saying, ‘Let’s make sure we are maximizing our spending and reaching new people.’”