How Much Is MOCA Making From MOCAtv?

MOCAtv, the Museum of Contemporary Art’s newly launched YouTube channel, isn’t PBS, and it’s not MTV. Least of all is it the usual run of museum-produced video. Remember the floating head of John Baldessari? MOCAtv’s artist interviews are fun and counterintuitive without trying too hard. This could be the future of museum video.

The fly in the ointment is the obtrusive, YouTube-inserted advertisements. The advertisers make no sense at all: the Mormon Church (for a Diana Thater interview). “Popcorn” ceiling removal (for Mark Bradford).

For every second that a before-video ad runs, much of the online audience bails. That raises the question: How much cash is MOCAtv raking in, anyway?

MOCA is now a YouTube partner, sharing ad revenue with corporate owner Google. Partners are contractually obligated not to reveal how much they’re making. The information has leaked out, of course. Most reports say that the partner royalty is around $1 per 1000 views.

Two days after the MOCAtv launch, the channel’s most-viewed video is “Art Is For You,” a trailer that’s been featured on MOCA’s and other websites. It’s had 6941 views. The nine more substantial videos currently online had 1931 views in all. The grand total comes to 8872.

On today’s market, that’s worth about $8.87.*

* This figure has been spiked by the free, three-month museum memberships that MOCA is giving to those who subscribe to the channel.

Super-agent Ari Emanuel, a new MOCA board member, helped broker the Google deal. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that Emanuel negotiated a higher royalty rate. I would be surprised if the tip on the lunch where this was negotiated was less than what MOCAtv has earned so far.

Google supplied start-up costs for MOCAtv as an advance against royalties. That would be the brilliant thing about the deal.

MOCAtv is just getting started. Its videos will accumulate hits with time. The term “viral” is sometimes reserved for videos achieving a million views. A million views would earn on the order of $1000—less than a MOCAtv video’s production cost, unless everybody’s donating free labor. The humor channel Funny or Die showcases bankable A- and B-list comics and struggles to get 100,000 views for a given video.

Bottom line: MOCAtv isn’t going to help MOCA’s bottom line. That’s okay. Producing relevant video is increasingly part of a museum’s mission, and for now, MOCA has moved to the head of the pack.

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