These YouTubers Make a Killing: How do they do it?

How do leading YouTubers monetize their channels? What are the sources of their earnings? Here's a list of top YouTube channels and their monetization strategy for you to take inspiration from.
October 15, 2023
Minutes Read

Alright. So, a couple of weeks ago we discussed what is video monetization and how to go about it. We shared with you a detailed strategy to start earning money from your video content. We also delved into different formats you can leverage to make more money from your video channel(s).

In that post, we informed you that irrespective of the path you choose, YouTube will remain integral to your overall strategy. Why? YouTube has 2.6 billion monthly active users – that’s about one-third of the global population. Every day, billions of hours are streamed on YouTube and the figure keeps growing year after year. It barely comes as a surprise then that YouTubers like Ryan Kaji, who started YouTubing in 2015 or when he was just four years old, are making millions of dollars in annual income.

Ryan Kaji giving thumbs up with both hands

To give you a perspective, Ryan doesn’t make money only via ad revenues from his 7 YouTube channels (i.e. Ryan’s World, Ryan Family Review, The Studio Space, Combo Panda, VTubers, Gus The Gummy Gator, and EK Doodles) but also through his television series on Nick Jr. “Ryan’s Mystery Playdate”, video games, brand deals, branded product lines, and more!

This brings us to an interesting question. How do leading YouTubers monetize their channels? As in, what are the sources of their earnings?

Well, fret not! We’ve created a list of top YouTube channels and their monetization strategy for you to take inspiration from. Let us know in the comments which strategy you think is the best.

How do people earn from YouTube?

Monetization on YouTube is fairly simple. A content creator uploads videos to the platform, people watch them, YouTube places ads before, in between, and after the videos, and the content creator gets a share of the revenues generated via ads.

You must note that this is an oversimplified version of how YouTubers make a living. In reality, content creators adopt a very complex monetization strategy to optimize their channel revenues. Take Ryan as an example. He doesn’t limit his earnings by ad revenues. He has active commercial partnerships and brand deals while he also sells manufactured products and accessories to boost his income.

Similarly, T-Series, the most subscribed channel on YouTube, is an Indian record label that single-handedly dominates the Bollywood music landscape. Its revenues majorly come from licensing fees, royalties, and sales of cassettes and CDs. Ad revenues from YouTube would only form a fraction of its income when compared to its other sources.

So, without further ado, let’s get to know some top YouTube channels and what are their monetization strategies.

  1. T-Series – 225 Million Subscribers – 202 Billion Views

Although T-Series made its YouTube debut in 2006, the channel shot into the global limelight in late 2018, when it neared the subscriber count of PewDiePie, the most subscribed YouTube channel back then. By 2019, T-Series dethroned PewDiePie as the most subscribed YouTube channel and has retained the title ever since.

A screenshot of T-Series' YouTube channel highlighting Adipurush official teaser

As already informed, T-Series is a music label company and earns most of its revenues via copyrights and licenses. However, it has had success with movie production as well. It often co-produces movies with other major production houses. Here are some of the revenue sources for T-Series:

  • Multi-channel Network

T-Series has a multi-channel network of more than 30 channels on YouTube. Some of these channels include T-Series Tamil, T-Series Telugu, Bollywood Classics, and Lahiri Music alongside others. Some estimates suggest that T-Series makes more than $128 million annually via YouTube.

  • Music Production & Distribution

As Asia’s largest music label, T-Series produces thousands of songs every year in multiple languages. The company also has an expansive network of recording studios headquartered in Noida, India. Furthermore, T-Series has partnerships with streaming services as well as radio stations and provides its content to them at a premium.

  • Movie and Web Series Production

Over the years, T-Series has diversified its offerings and is frequently seen producing movie titles in partnership with major movie production houses. Now, the company is entering into OTT content by developing “binge-worthy” web series.

  • Cable License

The company provides licenses to cable operators and distribution networks including telecast of audio songs, visual songs, music, repertoire, and other contents of T-Series.

  • Retail License

T-Series extends retail licenses to mobile shops, internet cafes, photo and video studios, and other commercial organizations.

  1. CoComelon – 143 Million Subscribers – 139 Billion Views

Although CoComelon is the second-most subscribed channel, all other channels pale in comparison to CoComelon’s popularity on YouTube. For instance, while T-Series has amassed 225 million subscribers and 202 billion views with more than 17,500 videos, CoComelon has achieved 143 million subscribers and 139 billion views with roughly 800 videos.

A still from the CoComelon's Beach song; JJ building a sand castle

The allure of CoComelon is in its adorable nursery rhymes and eye-catching as well as lively animation. The kids’ channel releases about two videos per week while the brains behind it maintain a very low profile. This low profile empowers the creators of CoComelon to maintain unmatched levels of focus and productivity while managing a team of 20 professionals.

It must be noted here that the channel is operated by an American company Treasure Studio and was acquired by British new media conglomerate Moonbug in 2020. However, in 2022, Moonbug was itself acquired by Candle Media, a joint venture of two former Disney executives.

The major revenue sources of Cocomelon include:

  • Multichannel Network

CoComelon has a multichannel network of 33 channels including CoComelon - It’s Cody Time, CoComelon Animal Time, Little Baby Bum, and vernacular-based channels. On top of 143 million subscribers of the main CoComelon channel, the multichannel network adds more than 50 million subscribers to the list.

It is estimated that the platform earns anywhere from $850 thousand to over $5 million every month via YouTube.

  • TV Broadcasts

CoComelon also airs on the television on channels like Universal Kids and Cartoon Network’s Cartoonito. The nursury rhyming channel has also been featured on BBC IPlayer and Tiny Pop in the United Kingdom.

  • Albums

The CoComelon characters are nothing short of rockstars for kids across the globe. Hence, it isn’t a surprise to see CoComelon selling its hit songs and rhymes as albums such as “Nursury Rhymes by CoComelon”, “CoComelon Animal Play”, “CoComelon Calm Lullabies”, and “CoComelon Kids Birthday Party”.

  • Music Streaming Platforms

You can also stream into CoComelon’s ear-pleasing musical masterpieces on Amazon Music, Spotify, and Apple Music. The company charges these streaming services a royalty fee for the respective streams.

  • Merchandise

In 2020, CoComelon stepped up its revenue generation game by introducing branded merchandise and toys by the name of CoComelon and Blippi. The company’s product lineup ranges from apparel and accessories to toys and homeware.

  • Events

Since 2021, CoComelon has started conducting physical events with speaking characters and live tours across several locations in the MENA regions as well as the US. The company generates revenues via ticketing and sponsorships of these events.

  1. PewDiePie – 111 Million Subscribers – 28 Billion Views

One of the most-noted internet personality and content creator, Felix Arvid Ulf Kjellberg, popularly known as “PewDiePie”, is no ordinary YouTuber. He held the title as the most watched and most-subscribed channel from 2013 to 2019 despite being an individual content creator. Even today, PewDiePie is the most-subscribed channel on YouTube managed by an individual.

PewDiePie’s claim to fame came through his video game commentaries and “Let’s Play” videos. During his early days, the Swedish YouTuber had to support himself financially by working as a harbor captain, selling hot dogs, and making Photoshop prints. The YouTuber’s funny takes and interesting content, however, made him a YouTube celebrity just a couple of years down the line.

PewDiePie showing Ruby Play button
  • YouTube Ad Revenues

PewDiePie operates two channels on YouTube, i.e. PewDiePie and PewDiePie Highlights. However, he has now moved to Japan and stopped actively posting Let’s Play videos on his channel after 2019. He now posts casually on the platform and estimates suggest that he makes $10k to $60k per month.

  • Merchandise

PewDiePie sells everything from hats to t-shirts, beanies, and whatnot. He operates his own unisex clothing line called Tsuki with his wife Marzia and also has several branded deals in place with various brands for branded merchandise.

  • Book Royalty

In 2015, the Swedish YouTuber released his first book called “This Book Loves You”. The book is a parody of self-help books and became the New York Time Bestseller for two weeks straight right after its release.

  • Facebook Watch

In 2021, PewDiePie signed a contract with Jellysmack for the optimization and distribution of its video content for a Facebook Watch audience.

  • Exclusive Deals

Being an internet celebrity with cult-like following, PewDiePie also has exclusive content deals in place with platforms for different categories of videos. Some of his known previous and current partnerships include platforms like YouTube and DLive alongside others.

  • Games

In 2016, PewDiePie launched a smartphone game called Tuber Simulator in collaboration with Outerminds Inc. The freemium simulation game is loosely based on PewDiePie and requires the player to create videos, generate views, make enhancements, and participate in competitions. Earlier in 2015, he had launched a critically acclaimed and financially successful game called PewDiePie: Legend of the Brofist. Other games released by him include PewDiePie’s Pixelings, Poopdie, and Animal Super Squad.

  • Sponsorship and Affiliate Marketing

Lastly, PewDiePie also leverages sponsorships and affiliate marketing to generate revenues. Some of his sponsors include Arkade, Legendary Pictures, and Mountain Dew while his video descriptions include affiliate links to NordVPN and his personal setup comprising chair, browser, keyboard, and mouse.

PewDiePie promoting a sponsored product
  1. MrBeast – 104 Million Subscribers – 17 Billion Views

MrBeast began YouTubing in 2012 but he wouldn’t see any significant success until 2017, or when his “Counting to 100,000” video went viral. He hasn’t looked back ever since. He emerged as one of the 10 highest-paid YouTubers in 2020 and the highest-paid YouTuber in 2021.

The first viral video of MrBeast

The YouTuber is known for creating a unique niche with his competitive and expensive stunt videos backed by amazing giveaways. In a recent video, upon achieving 100 million subscribers, MrBeast donated a private island to one of his subscribers. The YouTuber is also known for his Let’s Play videos, entrepreneurial stints, and philanthropic activities.

  • YouTube Ad Revenues

MrBeast has more than 104 million subs on his main channel and another 81 million on 5 other channels, namely MrBeast Gaming, Beast Reacts, MrBeast Shorts, MrBeast 2, and Beast Philanthropy. It is estimated that MrBeast earns anywhere from $90K to over a million dollars per month via ad revenues on YouTube.

  • Sponsored Videos

Sponsorship is the primary revenue source for MrBeast. He primarily funds his videos using deals with high-end brands, promoting their product in his viral videos. While such sponsorship may appear expensive, according to researchers, they are quite cost-effective as MrBeast’s higher engagement and reception easily outweigh TV advertisements.

  • MrBeast Burger

On top of being a YouTuber, MrBeast is actually an entrepreneur at heart. In 2020, he founded a virtual restaurant that is currently live across more than 1,000 locations in North America and Europe. Its customers enjoy MrBeast’s burgers, french fries, beverages, and desserts via food delivery apps, and the product is fulfilled via a contracted kitchen or restaurant.

  • Feastables

In January 2022, MrBeast announced the launch of his chocolate company called Feastables. In his unique style, MrBeast organized a competition inspired by “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Sweepstakes worth $1 million accompanied the brand launch in the movie-themed event.

MrBeast dressed as Willy Wonka presenting the Chocolate Factory competition
  • Investments

MrBeast has also invested in tech startups Backbone and Current. In 2021, he also launched Juice Funds in partnership with Creative Juice, an investment fund for content creators worth $2 million.

  • Merchandise

MrBeast offers a large collection of merchandise including hoodies, T-shirts, stickers, and key rings on his online store front.

  1. Kids Diana Show – 101 Million Subscribers – 81 Billion Views

They say age is just a number. This young Ukrainian YouTuber and her brother are here to prove it to you with a net worth of over $448.29 million. Some estimates peg this figure at around $627.61 million. Diana creates content related to children’s songs, vlogs, infotainment, product unboxing, and role-plays. She started her journey in 2015 with casual video uploads by her mother. However, her channel amassed 1 million subscribers in less than a year, prompting her parents to leave their full-time jobs and move to the US.

Diana and Roma in the video "Diana and her Barbie car"

Diana is now an internet celebrity with her own franchise called, “Love, Diana – The Princess of Play”. She also has a live-action animated series, which features on YouTube, Amazon Prime, The Roku Channel, and Samsung TV+. Here are some of the major revenue sources for the Kids Diana Show.

  • Multichannel Network

Diana and her family run a total of 12 channels on top of their main channel Kids Diana Show. These channels include Love, Diana, Diana and Roma ESP, Diana and Roma ARA, and Diana and Roma Arabic to name a few. The tally of all these channels leads to over 250 million subscribers. Estimates suggest that all of these properties create an ad-based revenue of $1 million to $6 million every month.

  • Love, Diana – The Princess of Play Franchise

In 2021, in association with Pocket.Watch, Diana launched a franchise called Love, Diana – The Princess of Play. The franchise distributes games, animated series, merchandise, and more!

  • Song Streaming

Diana and Roma’s songs are available on popular music streaming platforms including Spotify, Amazon Music, Apple Music, YouTube Music, etc. As a result, they also earn royalties from music streaming.

Does YouTube Pay Every Month?

Yes. If you’re a member of the YouTube Partner Program and reach AdSense’s minimum threshold of $100 (or £60), you can opt for a payout that month. YouTube for AdSense issues all payouts between the 21st and the 26th of the next month. You can also choose a later date to get paid. You must note here that these dates depend on your timezone and whether it’s a public or bank holiday on 21st (and the days that follow).

Can anyone earn on YouTube?

Yes, anyone can earn by monetizing their video content on YouTube. However, the Google-owned platform has a strict monetization policy. It requires its content creators to have at least 4,000 hours of publicly watched content in the last year and at least 1,000 subscribers. You must also have a linked AdSense account with no active Community Guidelines strikes on your channel. Lastly, you must live in a country where YouTube’s Partner Program is available. Check out the detailed YouTube Partner Program Overview here.

But, as the list would have made it clear, ad revenues are not a stable source of income generation. Typically, YouTubers dabble into other revenue generation sources on top of their YouTube streams to optimize their income. Here’s a video that details various monetization practices adopted by creators on YouTube.

Is YouTube the only place to earn via videos?

If you’ve read our blog on video monetization, you may remember that YouTube forms an integral part of your video monetization strategy because it is the largest video search engine and the second-largest search engine on the internet. Even if you create your own OTT platform, you’d still need to maintain a presence on YouTube. Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, and all other major OTT platforms do so. YouTube is where your audience is going to find you and your content. Once they do, you have to drive them toward your platform and tap other major sources of monetization such as paid memberships, merchandise sales, exclusive content, and so forth.

To do so, you can leverage video monetization platforms such as Teyuto and create your OTT platform in a hassle-free manner. Teyuto not only allows you to create your OTT channel with its drag-and-drop channel builder but also equips you with superior branding options including the look and feel of your video player. Also, unlike other video monetization platforms (such as YouTube, Patreon, and others), Teyuto does not charge you a commission on your memberships. You get to keep the entire amount! It’s your hard-earned money, after all.

Lastly, is becoming a YouTuber easy?

To be honest with you, no, it isn’t. According to Statista, 500 hours of videos were uploaded to YouTube each minute back in February 2020. This is roughly 30,000 hours of new video content uploading every hour. So, it’s far from easy to compete in this realm. And, remember, this is the pre-pandemic content upload rate. Video uploads across the globe have exploded following the pandemic.

However, it doesn’t mean that it’s impossible to be a YouTuber or create video content. All you need is a great strategy to break through the clutter. There were thousands of content creators already in the fray when YouTubers like MrBeast and Kids Diana Show came into the scene. Today, they have millions of followers and are amongst the most influential people around the world. They wouldn’t have reached where they are today had they not started creating their unique content.

Just go out there. Make a few mistakes and learn from them. Who knows? Perhaps, your name would feature in this list a few years down the line. Godspeed!

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Marcello Violini
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