‘MCN’ is an acronym for ‘Multi-Channel Network’. MCNs are not owned by YouTube, they are third party organizations that might offer a variety of services to YouTube creators in exchange for a percentage of their earnings.
The types of services an MCN might offer include audience development, content programming, finding collaborations, sales, and digital rights management.
Can I join an MCN?
MCNs make their money by collecting ad revenue from the YouTube channels that are in their network. So, if you do not qualify for the YouTube Partner Program (YPP), then you cannot join an MCN. If you were in an MCN prior to the February 2018 updates to YPP and lost monetization when the rules changed, you were dropped from your MCN.
When you join an MCN, you sign a legally binding contract that entitles the MCN to a portion of your ad revenue. You should never join an MCN without a full understanding of the contract you’re signing.
Before you sign a contract, understand what your future MCN’s obligations will be to you and what your obligations will be to them.
A lot of YouTubers have found leaving their MCN to be challenging because they did not fully understand the duration of their contract or how to exit it. Make sure you know how to leave an MCN before you join one (your contract may renew automatically).
Types of MCN Channels
A channel that is associated with an MCN is either an Affiliate Channel or an Owned and Operated (O&O) Channel.
An Affiliate channel is owned by an Affiliate Content Owner (YouTube creator) and managed to some degree by an MCN.
An Owned and Operated channel is completely owned and run by an MCN, meaning that the MCN owns all of the content on the channel and manages everything to do with it (instead of just specific things outlined in a contract).
Do MCNs Pay More than AdSense?
How much you make on YouTube through the Partner Program depends on the CPM (cost per thousand ad impressions) you’re getting through AdSense. Some MCNs claim that you will get a higher CPM after signing with them (they will not guarantee anything, but they may suggest it as a possibility).
It is hard to find data to back this up as it is against AdSense’s policies for creators to tell anybody about their CPMs.
It is certainly possible for a network to negotiate higher paying ads for their members, but whether or not your channel will be included in the deals they negotiate is uncertain. They may make deals on behalf of their entire network, but they may also make deals for just the biggest channels in their network.
A higher CPM through an MCN is possible, but whether it actually happens for your channel after joining an MCN is never guaranteed. What is guaranteed is that you will be paying a portion of your ad revenue to the MCN (on top of the percentage Google/YouTube already takes).
Pros of Joining an MCN
MCNs are able to help creators in a number of ways. Here are a few:
Collaborations: a network might help to set up collaborations between you and other channels in their network. They are extremely unlikely to get you a collab with the biggest channel in their network, but they could pave the way for you to work with other talents about the same size as you.
Brand deals: a network can find and negotiate sponsorship opportunities for you.
Access to resources: an MCN might be able to provide you with access to channel art, royalty-free music, or even studio space.
Support with channel growth: from offline workshops and meetups to online articles and tutorial videos, there are a number of ways in which an MCN can help support the growth of your channel. They may even offer you individual support to develop your content and brand, but that is unlikely unless you are one of their larger channels.
Overall, the main benefit of an MCN is that it can take a lot of headaches out of running a YouTube channel. You could do a lot of the things they offer yourself, but it could be nice to let someone else manage it.
Cons of Joining an MCN
Try searching ‘should I join an MCN’ and you will be overwhelmed with the number of videos out there devoted to telling you ‘NO!’. Most of these are from YouTube creators that have had negative experiences with networks they used to be part of.
Here are a few of the most common complaints:
There are no real perks: you can do almost anything an MCN can all by yourself. You can reach out to other YouTubers for collaborations, or find brand deals for yourself on Famebit. You might not have the resources to negotiate better ads and CPMs for yourself as a small YouTuber, but most MCNs don’t put that kind of effort into their smaller channels anyways.
As for resources like music, channel art, and advice: you can find that for free online. Here’s a list of free resources you can use instead of relying on an MCN.
You’re just a number: the more members an MCN has, the less likely it is that you’re going to get any kind of individual attention or support (after signing, you may get a lot of attention from a salesperson).
It’s hard to leave: when you sign a contract with an MCN, you may be locked into that contract until it expires. Then, it might be automatically renewed if you don’t act within the right window of time. Even if there is a way to exit an MCN before the contract period is over, there may be penalties or obstacles.
6 of the Top MCNs
Here’s a list of a few of the most well-known MCNs.
AwesomenessTV: an MCN and a media company, AwesomenessTV produces a sketch comedy show of the same name on Nickelodeon as well as several web series. Their focus is on entertainment for teens and preteens.
Disney Digital Network: formerly Maker Studios, creators in this network have been tapped to promote Disney’s content (like Star Wars movies) in sponsored videos.
StyleHaul: an MCN devoted to beauty and lifestyle.
There could potentially be a lot of perks to joining an MCN, for a larger channel. If your channel is so big you have a lot of trouble managing it yourself, keeping track of brand deals, and are actually in a position to negotiate for better ads then an MCN can help.
A talent agent is another option you might want to explore at that stage.
If you’re a smaller channel, it probably makes more sense to keep plugging away at things yourself. There are a lot of free resources available, and most MCNs can’t afford to give smaller creators a lot of individual attention.
If you are considering joining an MCN, and there are certain benefits you want to make sure you get, there’s no harm in trying to negotiate for them in the contract.
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Shanoon Cox is a writer and a lover of all things video.
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