When YouTube stars flame out it happens where everyone can see. And it’s possible that is we’ve just witnessed in wake of the very public divorce between YouTube sensation Ray William Johnson and Maker Studios. So was it a fight for creative control, or cold economic rationale?
Maker Studios boasts that its network of more than 1,000 publishers generate 1 billion video views monthly. With 6 million subscribers and more than 2 billion video views, Ray William Johnson was a vital contributor to Maker Studios’ rising fortunes. However Ray William Johnson’s show “=3,” has been sinking fast.
According to ChannelMeter’s proprietary YouTube data, Ray has seen his popularity tumble, gaining 36 percent fewer new views in September than in July — a decrease of 23 million views per month. While Ray continues to grow his subscriber base, our data show he’s off his pace considerably: he added a respectable 100,215 subscribers last month, but growth in subscribers is down by 22 percent compared to his historical average.
By way of comparison, the top 100 YouTubers as a group increased video views 2.02 percent* during the same three-month period. Ray William Johnson is still the most popular publisher on YouTube–bigger than Justin Bieber and Rihanna combined–but he is underperforming his peers. The Top 100 YouTubers grew subscribers 13.27 percent** during the same quarter Johnson’s growth cooled.
So did Maker Studios kill the goose that laid the golden egg, or are they just cutting their losses?
We reached out to Maker Studios for clarification. They declined to comment, referring us instead to their official statement:
With the recent decline in viewership on =3 it made sense for him to go back to producing the show himself. Maker providing a full production staff of 12 people including a team of writers no longer was a viable option for =3.
Johnson claims viewership was not an issue.
“Maker suddenly insisted on owning part of =3 IP,” Johnson said in a public Twitter exchange with New Media Rockstars founder Benny Luo. “When I told them no, they stopped production on the YFM album, so I left.”
Since joining forces with Maker Studios the format of the “=3” show has changed considerably. No longer is the program filmed in Ray’s bedroom, and the show features a steady stream of celebrity guest hosts. Some are funny, some are not. Rza of the Wu Tang Clan hosted an episode published in late September, and used the end of his appearance to plug his upcoming movie ‘The Man with the Iron Fists.” While mainstream comedians and actors may be using “=3” to broaden their reach, it seems the “=3” viewership is not impressed. This may explain why they’re leaving in droves.
While Ray William Johnson will likely remain the most popular YouTuber for some time, he may be looking forward to a long, downward career arc.
*Video views for the top 100 YouTube publishers increased 12.46 percent if you include PSY GANGNAM STYLE
**Subscriber growth for the top 100 YouTube channels increased 13.27 percent if you include OFFICIAL PSY