Home Social Media Team Whistle’s Biggest Revenue Driver Isn’t TikTok Or YouTube Shorts

Team Whistle’s Biggest Revenue Driver Isn’t TikTok Or YouTube Shorts

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Social media creators are used to dealing with constantly changing platforms.

While YouTube Shorts’ new revenue share and creator funds can offer meaningful revenue, Team Whistle prefers the predictability of sponsored content.

Team Whistle oversees a network of sports and fitness influencers who produce video content for social media under its brand umbrella. It also operates its own social channels (like Whistle and Brother) and an OTT streaming video channel. But unlike most digital-native publishers, it doesn’t have a dedicated website.

The company started out in 2014 as a multichannel network that aggregated sports influencers’ content before pivoting to establishing its brand as a publisher in 2020. Since then, it’s tripled its partnerships and ad revenue.

On social media, it posts to all the usual suspects, including TikTok, YouTube, Snap, Facebook and Instagram.

Team Whistle also licenses its OTT channel, which features social video and original content, to a number of streaming platforms, including Roku, Android TV, Amazon Fire, Samsung TV Plus, Vizio WatchFree+, Plex, DistroTV, Rad, Local Now, Stremium, Sports.TV and Whistle TV. In return, it either receives a portion of the ad revenue or controls a portion of the ad load and monetizes it programmatically.

YouTube vs. TikTok

Despite the current obsession with TikTok, Team Whistle says TikTok’s programmatic ad offerings pale in comparison to YouTube’s more robust, Google-supported ad platform.

“TikTok doesn’t really have monetization,” said Madison Kirchofer, social media manager at Team Whistle.

While TikTok does have a contextual advertising offering called Pulse with a 50% revenue share for publishers, it only serves ads alongside content that ranks in the top 4% of views on the platform. So publishers have to monetize any content that doesn’t fall into the top 4% on their own, usually through sponsored content deals brokered directly with brands.

But YouTube is offering 45% of the revenue earned from pre-roll ads that play in between Shorts videos starting February 1.

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While it may seem like an obvious move for publishers to repurpose their TikTok content for monetization through the YouTube Shorts Partner Program, that might not be so easy in practice, because content created for TikTok often features music.

If a creator uses a song in a Short, YouTube will share one-third of revenue from those views with the music creator (and set aside two-thirds of the revenue if there are two songs). The remaining revenue is then added to a pool, and after YouTube takes its 55% cut, the rest is distributed to creators at the end of each month based on how many views their Shorts received during that period.

Team Whistle has noticed that using music in Shorts severely limits the revenue-earning potential of those videos, Kirchofer said. “So, when we are doing YouTube Shorts content, we are not using a ton of music.”

Instead of cross-posting content on TikTok, Whistle takes existing long-form YouTube content and chops it into Shorts-length, bite-size video clips using the platform’s Remix feature, Kirchofer said.

Platform partnerships

Team Whistle participated in TikTok’s $50 million Creative Learning Fund by working with its influencers to create educational videos in line with its editorial focus on sports and fitness, Kirchofer said.

Team Whistle also produces content in partnership with Meta’s platforms. For example, for the past three years, Team Whistle’s influencers have created sponsored Facebook videos for World Trickshot Day. That partnership also factored into Meta’s promotional efforts for the rollout of its Instagram Reels feature.

Although partnering with platforms can be lucrative, brand partnerships make up the bulk of Team Whistle’s business. The media brand spun up MAGNET, an in-house agency that guides brands who lack expertise in creating viral content.

For example, “the most appealing platform to brands right now is TikTok,” Kirchofer said. But they don’t necessarily understand what content works on TikTok or how to create content that will resonate with certain audiences.

MAGNET also works with brands on cross-platform campaigns. During the World Cup, MAGNET partnered with eBay for a campaign in the US, UK and Canada. Its influencers created videos featuring World Cup memorabilia that could be purchased on eBay. These videos were shared across YouTube Shorts, Instagram Stories, Facebook and the Whistle FC Twitter account.

Working on brand partnerships makes Whistle’s business sustainable. Team Whistle’s revenue split is roughly 70% from sponsored content and 30% from all other types of ads, including pre-roll video, said Vinnie Butera, Team Whistle’s VP of brand partnerships.

Although the social platforms offer some programmatic monetization tools, their revenue shares leave a lot to be desired. That means, for now, sponsored content and influencer marketing are a publisher’s best bets for monetizing social video.

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