Friday 6 December 2019

Teenage tycoons plan to make a mint as YouTube talent managers

Ireland's only two licensed YouTube talent managers are helping online video stars make more money, says John Reynolds

Conor O’Flaherty, founder of Pursue
Conor O’Flaherty, founder of Pursue

John Reynolds

Two teenage entrepreneurs are set to earn millions in advertising commissions as the only two talent management and ad agents for rising YouTube video stars that the Google-owned giant has licensed in Ireland, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

Creative Nation, which was founded by 18-year-old Dubliner Shane Corry, earned around €1m in commission last year and will grow from 28 to 35 employees in the coming months.

Meanwhile, 17-year-old Galway native Conor O'Flaherty, the founder of Pursue, whose earnings to date have been more modest - but made by helping his clients earn hundreds of thousands - has devised a business strategy to earn more than €1m in commissions over the next 12 months.

As well as advertising deals with individual brands that want to be promoted alongside videos produced by YouTubers, the Galwegian will help them win other kinds of money-spinning deals not currently offered by his rival. He offers a more personalised service that is tailored to help them grow their fan base and earnings.

O'Flaherty helped one Canadian client earn five times as much money as she did previously and recently secured her a deal with a cosmetics brand - as a result she now earns €5,000 a month.

Known by family and friends as "the Jerry Maguire of YouTube" (after the 1996 comedy of the same name about a sports agent), and a maker of YouTube videos himself since the age of 10, O'Flaherty began working on his business aged just 14.

Last year, after a month of discussions with his parents and winning them over with a 29-slide presentation, he decided to abandon his Leaving Cert studies and instead follow his ambition to work on Pursue. His parents also sought the advice of a number of members of Galway's business community before giving their blessing.

"I plan to grow in Europe in the first half of this year, but I've also spotted an untapped market farther afield, where there are hundreds of YouTubers with massive audiences that we could help develop. It's an exciting opportunity," says O'Flaherty.

"The company will also be creating content ourselves as we grow, but I also want to focus on helping society. This could involve partnering with charities and fundraising through the millions of people the YouTubers who I manage can reach."

Corry's business, which he founded in 2013, differs from Pursue in that it is a network of 3,500 video creators which is managed using a combination of support staff, talent managers and software.

The company recently began making its own videos as well. Its first channel - Facts - features quirky, funny and shareable takes on American food and being a non-drinker in Ireland. It already has 330,000 subscribers and more than 12 million views a month. Sponsors and advertisers have sought deals to run ads alongside it or sponsor its films, and Corry plans to double its staff of video producers from three to six full-time. He's also establishing a gaming channel, dedicating sales people to work with video bloggers and planning to sell ads directly to brands and through product-placement deals. Advertisers and brands are typically seeking to reach 18 to 25-year-olds.

While YouTube does not publicise how much it pays to video creators on a country-by-country basis, Corry says that based an informed estimate, it could be paying out between €4.2m and €6m per year to Irish video makers. The majority of the money would be earned by a handful of the most popular ones, of which the top earner could be pocketing €2m to €3m a year, he suggested.

With 270 million views per month, 8 million subscribers and 3.4 billion total views, Athlone-based video-gaming commentator Sean McLoughlin's JackSepticEye is the Irish YouTuber with the most fans. Other top earners include Meath brothers Ryan and Scott Fitzsimons of channel LittleLizardGaming, who have 2.1 million subscribers and more than 1 billion total views.

A YouTube spokeswoman said: "While we do not provide figures, over 3 million creators across Europe are making money from YouTube and the number of people doing so is growing exponentially. Thousands of its channels globally are making six-figure sums a year. Its ad revenues have grown 50pc year-on year and watch time is up 60pc year-on-year, growth that provides great opportunities for content creators."

A number of Irish YouTubers, including Bray native Riyadh Khalaf who has over 90,000 subscribers and Dublin-born ex-Google employee Hazel Hayes whose Chewing Sand channel has 160,000 subscribers and 9.5 million views, are finding success in London, a talent hub for many of the most popular YouTube channels, and to where even a number of American creators have relocated.

Meanwhile, a number of recent deals point to the kind of success Corry and O'Flaherty could achieve. Last year, Twitter bought US social-talent agency Niche for a figure believed to have been between €27m and €55m, according to industry estimates.

And in 2014, Disney bought a network of YouTube channels and video makers called Maker Studios for at least €450m, while European media firm RTL paid more than €100m for StyleHaul, a YouTube network focused on fashion and beauty.

Sunday Indo Business

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