YouTube, multichannel networks and the accelerated evolution of the new screen ecology

Stuart Cunningham, David Craig, Jon Silver

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

95 Citations (Scopus)


In attempting to break with a ‘fall from grace’ narrative that may structure analysis of the rapid professionalization and monetization of previously amateur online video content on the main global platform, YouTube, this article outlines histories of key institutions in the new screen ecology as outcomes of the increased interpenetration of very different, often clashing industry cultures. Google/YouTube, Apple’s iTunes, Netflix, Amazon, Yahoo! and Facebook (‘NoCal’) are largely Internet ‘pure-play’ companies, whilst Hollywood’s incumbents (‘SoCal’) practice time-honoured mass media and premium content strategies. The ‘history of the present’ of the new screen ecology is the history of the clash of these cultures. The less than 10-year history of Google’s YouTube can be written as a history of Google seeking to come to terms with the conditions of possibility for entertainment, content and talent development from its base as an IT company dedicated to scale, automation, permanent beta, rapid prototyping and iteration. These efforts reflect both continuities and contestations with traditional media models, particularly business models. As emerging intermediaries in the middle of the convergent space between NoCal and SoCal, multichannel networks’ (MCNs’) placement sees them needing to innovate on both the NoCal and SoCal side. On the former side, MCNs are attempting to provide value-added services superior to basic YouTube analytics, with programmatics and pioneering attempts at management of scale and volume. On the latter side, they are managing a quite different class of entry- to mid-level talent, who bring successful audience development and clear ideas about the roots of their success with them. The new screen ecology is a space of unimagined scale and scope of flourishing online creativity and culture, which is at the same time turbulent and precarious for creators and MCNs alike.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)376-391
Number of pages16
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2016
Externally publishedYes


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