• James Creech

A Brief History of MCNs: All Things Video Traces YouTube Networks from 1.0 to 3.0

Updated: Apr 30, 2021

Over the past week, the All Things Video podcast has documented the history of multi-channel networks (MCNs) in a concise four-part series. Host James Creech explains how this new media business model began, flourished, and continues to evolve.

Precursors to MCNs (2005-2008)

This episode describes how traditional media models were challenged by the increasing popularity of user-generated content (UGC). Companies like Next New Networks and Revision3 “set the stage” for the development of MCNs and were later acquired by YouTube and Discovery, respectively. Listen here.

MCN 1.0: The Land Grab (2009-2012)

Part II tracks the success of grassroots UGC creators who intrigued audiences with a “two-way dialogue,” and the media entrepreneurs who saw the opportunity to build networks out of YouTube channels. During this time, known as “the land grab” era within the online video industry, the first MCNs emerged: Machinima, Maker Studios, Fullscreen, and AwesomenessTV. Listen here.

MCN 2.0: International Growth and Verticalization (2012-2015)

The third episode explores the growth of MCNs across the globe. Established U.S. MCNs developed a presence in Europe and South America, and regionally-based MCNs launched worldwide. In the MCN 2.0 phase, larger MCNs began to organize creator partners by content type or “vertical,” and new networks such as Kin Community and Tastemade were founded to serve specific verticals. Listen here.

MCN 3.0: Multi-Platform Expansion and SVOD (2016-present)

The fourth and final part addresses the impact of new social video platforms. Many MCNs have become MPNs, or multi-platform networks, as creators cultivate audiences on platforms in addition to YouTube. In this context, creators now work closely with brands and pursue opportunities in e-commerce. Subscription models, rather than solely ad-driven business, are becoming increasingly popular. These include YouTube Red, Fullscreen’s SVOD service, and niche content services like Crunchyroll. Finally, third-wave networks like 3BlackDot, All Def Digital, and ICON are increasingly successful. Listen here.

What’s next for MCNs and MPNs? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.


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