YouTube Ad Revenue Changes Hurting Indie Promotions

Beyond Wrestling and Absolute Intense Wrestling (AIW) say they're making almost no ad revenue on YouTube in the last few weeks. Much of the wrestling content across YouTube appears to be included in a restricted category that's not able to earn ad revenue due to recent changes in the Google property's algorithm.

Independent promotions such as New England-based Beyond and Cleveland, Ohio-based AIW are especially active on YouTube and have relied on ad revenue generated on the site to keep their promotions running. With the right content, indies can earn hundreds if not thousands of dollars per month from YouTube ad revenue, which is enough to make the difference between profit and loss to mid-level "super indie" companies.

AIW posted the following statement on its Instagram account:

[YouTube] has been a very important piece to the puzzle for not only us but several Independent wrestling promotions such as @beyondwrestling for several years as we counted on that additional income to stay in business and keep our bills paid. To most this may sound ridiculous that YouTube could be such a large part of promoting Independent Wrestling but to put this in perspective we would need to sell hundreds more DVD's and MP4's a month to make up for this lost stream of revenue. We ask that you please support anyway you can while we figure out what our next step is.

Beyond noted on Twitter:

It's possible this issue may affect WWE as well, which is one of the most popular content producers on all of YouTube. In 2016 alone, WWE reported to have received 15.1 billion ad-supported video views and 525 million hours of viewing time. The company reported 11.4 billion (75%) of those views happened on YouTube.

UPDATE: WWE YouTube videos still appear with ads, so it's likely this issue isn't affecting WWE in the way it's affecting independent companies.

(Source: WWE Key Performance Indicators)

WWE makes millions of dollars each quarter from YouTube ad revenue. The company reports that money within its "Digital Media" segment, which earned $26.9 million in revenue in 2016. According to WWE's annual report, that segment's "[r]evenues consist principally of advertising sales on our websites and third party websites including YouTube, and sales of various broadband and mobile content". WWE doesn't breakdown exactly how much of the Digital Media segment's revenue is made up of funds earned from YouTube, but with video view counts of over 11 billion last year, YouTube money could make up the majority of the segment's revenue.

If WWE's YouTube ad revenue is diminished to almost nothing, the degree to which promotions like Beyond and AIW are being hurt currently, and if nothing is done to resolve the issue, WWE's Digital Media segment could become a money-loser for the company. That segment however made up only $4.6 million out of WWE's $80.1 million in OIBDA (a profit-like metric) in 2016, so, worst case, this will not be as detrimental to WWE's business as it may be to some indies with more limited revenue streams.

Fightful.com reached out to WWE for comment as to whether YouTube's changes to its ad policy will actually affect the wrestling industry leader, but we have yet to receive a response.

Other than those mentioned, most promotions you can think of, from Impact Wrestling to Ring of Honor to Lucha Underground, may be affected by a lack of YouTube ad revenue. Another indie that's popular on YouTube, Combat Zone Wrestling, could be hurt to a similar extent as Beyond and AIW.

The reason for the changes on YouTube appear to be related to wider concerns among advertisers that ads are being run on videos from controversial creators, namely, violent and hateful content.

LGBTQ related content has also been caught up in the new filtering system.

Some wrestling content doesn't appear to be affected by the change for whatever reason. Some of that content are of promos and other videos that aren't of actual in-ring footage. There's even one intergender match on Beyond's channel that seems to be its only video not affected.

We contacted YouTube for further explanation on this story but haven't received a reply as of the time this article was published.

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