Online video is a great industry to be in. It’s exciting, growing fast, and valuable to many different types of people. If you’re in this business, you probably want to monetizing video to get the most out of your video content. But what’s the best way to do this?
In this article, we’re going to go over making money from video. This process—monetizing video—is easier than it sounds. But of course, it all hinges on producing good content. In this piece, we’ll examine different monetization models that are available to content creators. We’ll also discuss different video host platforms and how to make sales.
About monetizing video
There are many different ways to monetize your videos. These include pay-per-view (or PPV), advertising, and subscriptions. We’ll describe each of these options in more depth, and also provide some recommendations about which to choose in which circumstance, later in this essay.
How much can you really make?
Is video a viable business model? The answer is that it depends. There are thousands of businesses and other organizations that make a healthy profit on video alone. There are thousands more that use video as one part of a larger business model.
It may help to describe one of the most successful video enterprises out there:
Sports are one of the most attractive markets for pay-per-view. On the really high end of the payment scale, look at major PPV events such as boxing. The Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs. Manny Pacquiao fight in May 2015 generated 4.6 million pay-per-view purchases and around $400 million in revenue. All you can say to that is wow!
Those numbers are pretty much unattainable for smaller players. However, it is still possible to make good money. The average small alternative or minor league sports team can make several hundred sales for a given game.
Even charging a low price like $5 or $10 per view, that’s a good rate of return. Balanced against the equipment and services necessary to live stream, that rate of sales turns a profit within a few games.
Best practice #1: Match the monetization method to the content
There are three main methods of monetizing video. Let’s discuss each of them in turn and look at their pros and cons.
The longest-standing model of generating revenues through video is advertising. This has been a staple of TV (and radio before it) for decades. Advertising has some major benefits.
First, it allows for the development of long-term, sustainable revenues. As long as you can generate an audience, you can be assured that some businesses will be willing to pay to access them. Second, it allows you to offer content free to viewers. This may bring in a larger audience.
When it comes to live streaming online video, there are two main advertising models. The first is to use a digital ad platform via VAST (the digital Video Ad-Serving Template). This is a form of automated video advertising similar to Google AdWords. Its main advantage is that it easy to set up and implement.
Another alternative is sponsorship or direct advertising integrations. Essentially, this means doing the work yourself of determining businesses that may be interested in advertising on your programs, soliciting business from them, and then integrating their ads manually. While this takes more work, it can be more lucrative as well, since ads can be better targeted. Landing a single major advertiser can mean a large contract.
Sponsorship messages can also be incorporated on signup pages, in emails, as part of radio announcements, and in the background of the actual event.
However, there are a few disadvantages to monetizing video through advertising. Notably, advertising leaves the costs and burden of production in your hands. If you are unable to generate good content and attract a sufficient audience, you will not see good return on your spend. Additionally, advertising is often affected by the overall health of the economy. When businesses aren’t doing well, they’re unlikely to continue advertising.
The second main method of monetizing video is via pay-per-view. As the name suggests, this method simply means asking viewers to pay a one-time fee to access programming.
PPV has some great advantages. Most notably, it can generate large amounts of revenue. If you’re able to attract a decent audience size, income can add up quickly. Alternatively, you may have a very small target audience, but if they’re willing to pay a premium price for quality video than you’re still coming out ahead.
However, PPV has drawbacks as well. Notably, when a viewer uses PPV, they’re not making a long-term commitment to your brand. They may simply watch once and then leave. That means it’s up to you to turn them into long term customers.
Additionally, PPV generally requires an investment in marketing. The barrier to users watching the content is higher when they can’t simply tune in for free. That means that you’ll need to expend more effort (and time, money, etc.) to attract viewers.
The final monetization model for video is subscriptions. Subscriptions are the “season pass” of online video. Instead of having to purchase individual access to programs, they allow fans to gain access to all content with a single purchase.
There are some positives to this approach. For viewers, it’s much more convenient: one purchase, and you’re set. It also tends to save money over purchasing individual shows. For content creators, subscriptions offer a chance for greater overall revenue. They also tend to foster repeat customers and overall brand loyalty. Lastly, subscriptions make it easier for you to accurately forecast the number of people who will watch your content.
Of course, subscriptions have downsides too. Like the PPV model, subscriptions require that your viewers really want to watch your content. They’re not going to pay for it if they aren’t sure they want it. That’s even more true for a subscription than for a one-time event. To make subscriptions effective, you’ll need to sell.
One rule in business is diversification. Ideally, you should have income from a number of different sources. That means that if one fails, you won’t lose everything. The same approach can be used for monetizing video. There is no single “best” approach. Each audience and subject requires a slightly different method, but with time and testing, you can figure out the best method(s) for you.
Best practice #2: Choose the right platform
One absolutely essential element of any live streaming plan is the streaming video host platform you use. Essentially, the streaming host is the service that delivers your content to the world. They ingest the video stream you send to them, replicate it to a network of servers located around the world, and enable users to watch instantly.
These platforms also have a role in determining the features you can enable around your live video broadcasts, including monetization. Many live streaming service providers offer built-in monetization features, but not all do. Some platforms charge a great deal of money for monetization on top of basic features.
Ideally, we recommend that you determine which monetization options you would like to use before you start streaming. That way, you can assess which platform best fits your needs and budget.
Comparing monetization options from top live streaming platforms
Let’s compare video monetization options from several of the top live streaming and on-demand video hosts operating today.
First up is Ustream. As one of the most popular platforms around, Ustream is now owned by IBM and thus has big-brand support. As far as video monetization goes, support for PPV and other monetization options is still available via integration with Cleeng. However, this does require an additional fee. Ustream used to have a built-in pay-per-view option, but that was discontinued in 2014.
The next platform we’ll examine is Livestream. This service got the eponymous live streaming name, and as such their service is aimed mostly at big-business. Monetization options are available, but only starting from Enterprise plans at $799 per month. At that price, monetization is only affordable for big-budget organizations.
Next, let’s take a look at Wistia. This platform is built around video marketing, and offers some great features like video heat-maps and call to actions. However, they don’t integrate monetization. If you set up your own paywall on your website using some alternative system, you can monetize in that way. However, you’ll have to arrange that system separately yourself.
For our money, the best platform for video monetization is DaCast. We realize we’re tooting our own horn here, but bear with us. DaCast offers built-in monetization via pay-per-view or subscriptions. These methods are built-in to the video player window, which means you can make sales when your content is embedded on other websites or even on social media. DaCast also supports advertising via API and the VAST standard.
Best practice #3: Sell, sell, sell!
The best platform, content, and monetization method is useless if you aren’t actually able to make sales. That means one thing: marketing. Marketing video content is an entire industry unto itself. There are many different methods available.
Monetizing your video usually requires a marketing strategy. We recommend spending a good deal of time planning in advance. One of your top priorities should be to define your target audience.
Then, once you begin your strategy, you can refine it over time. Test which strategies lead to the best results, and focus your future efforts on those methods.
Take a look at the variety of options available to you for promotion. For example, you could consider advertising and spreading the word via:
Your email newsletter: this is a key method reaching your core audience.
Your social media pages: make regular posts starting well before your event (if you’re live streaming), and consider using a hashtag to allow your audience to participate in the conversation.
Websites and blogs: make posts and include banners or announcements about any upcoming events.
Guest posts on other blogs: this is a great way to reach audiences that you can’t reach directly, but who might otherwise be very interested in your video.
Traditional advertising (print, billboards, radio, and television): these platforms can be very expensive, but are often very effective. Make sure to choose the right medium and market for your target audience.
Online advertising (including video): Online advertising is becoming a dominant form of outreach. It’s cost-effective and simple to analyze. We also recommend using video to promote video. Clips from similar events can build excitement and give people a taste of what they can expect.
Direct relationships with thought-leaders: this is probably one of the more difficult advertising methods. But it’s also one of the most effective. Money won’t buy relationships, so building friendships and networking with people in your field is the only way to build a group of thought leaders you can leverage to help reach people. The payoff from this approach can be huge, especially if you can get the right influential people to plug your events.
Setting up an online video for monetization can be complex, or it can be easy. It all depends on the platform and the method you’re using.
For example, monetizing a video using the pay-per-view method on the DaCast platform is pretty simple. All you have to do is visit the settings page for that video, enable PPV, and select your pricing options. That’s it!
On the other end of the spectrum, enabling monetization using an external service is a bit more involved. For example, using Ustream with Cleeng involves signing up for another service and linking your Ustream account before monetization can take place.
When to go with free?
Monetization isn’t always right. Sometimes free content is best. For example, if you’re just getting started as a content creator, you probably don’t have the necessary audience to generate any significant revenue via monetization.
In this case, it may make more sense to simply release your videos for free. This builds name recognition and allows you to demonstrate your worth. Each time you can prove to someone that your content is valuable to them, you’ve created the potential for a future paying customer.
It may also be best to release your content for free in other situations. For example, if your revenues mainly come from other sources, it can appear generous to make videos free. That’s a boost to your public image. Alternatively, free content can be released to promote and lead towards paid content.
In this essay, we’ve covered a lot of best practices for monetizing video. Centrally, we talked about different monetization methods, selecting the right platform, and marketing your content. We also talked about monetization basics and when free content is superior to paid.
Hopefully, this information has helped you consider different aspects of monetization. With quality content and a smart approach, online video can be a significant income source. Do you have experience with video monetization? We’d love to hear from you! What has worked, and what hasn’t? Let us know in the comments about your own perspective.