But first, it needs a game plan
SOME 20,000 spectators paid an average of £135 ($175) to see the bout live at the Manchester Arena in Britain. Another 800,000 or so spent £7.50 to follow it on YouTube. An estimated 1m more were glued to pirated streams. The fighters in the ring had no boxing experience. But they have plenty of YouTube fans. KSI, a British internet personality (whose real name is Olajide Olatunji), has more than 19m followers. His challenger, an American vlogger named Logan Paul, has 18m. In the fight for eyeballs, Messrs Olatunji and Paul knocked out David Haye and Tony Bellew, two British professional fighters whose heavyweight clash in May attracted 775,000 paying viewers.
YouTube did not organise the contest, which took place on August 25th; the boxers did. But the video-sharing giant took an undisclosed cut of the earnings and ran adverts alongside the stream. The event’s enormous success has revived hopes that YouTube can get viewers to pay for content.
The platform continues to rake in money from advertising (Alphabet, which owns it, does not reveal how much). But wider concerns about fake news, data privacy and extremist content have not spared it. Several big brands pulled commercials from YouTube last year after finding that they were being posted alongside offensive videos.
YouTube’s desire to convert some of its 1.5bn users into paying customers predates the ad kerfuffle. It has struggled to achieve this aim. Its subscription service, YouTube Premium, launched in 2015 as YouTube Red but was rebranded in May. It offers shows and films featuring YouTube stars (as well as some Hollywood names), plus ad-free streaming of all YouTube videos and access to music. YouTube keeps mum about subscriber numbers, but reports suggest it has attracted a few million. YouTube TV, which sells a bundle of live television channels (including CNN) to American viewers, reportedly adds another 300,000. The odd celebrity face-off is unlikely to change the picture much. Until YouTube works out a proper strategy, it will flail around to no great effect—much as the vloggers did in the ring.