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The most successful YouTuber for the last four years is only 10 years old

14 July 2021 7:15 PM
Digital technology

Ryan Kaji, his parents and twin sisters earned over R800 million last year.

While many children have probably asked their parents if they can make YouTube videos, few have managed to turn that attempt into something as successful as the Kaji family.

What began in 2015 when Ryan was just three years old has grown into one of the most popular channels on YouTube with almost 30 million subscribers and over 47 billion video views.

When Business Unusual first covered the story in 2018, unboxing videos were on the rise as creators and brands recognised the power of having their products demonstrated as videos to assist those thinking of buying their products to get a better sense of what they would be getting and tap into the excitement of opening something new.

In the three years since, his parents have switched to working on the channel full time. They have signed up for multiple merchandise deals with major retails chains and their 5-year-old twins now feature in the videos too.


He is part of a kidfluencer talent agency called that has helped manage the merchandise deals as well as endorsements and new ventures like his TV show on Nickelodeon with 4 seasons and counting. It may only get a 1.9 rating on IMDB but for his fans it is a supersize version of his regular videos and contains a mix of educational puzzles and experiments that you might expect for live children’s TV. His mom Loan and dad Shion are regulars on the show too.

He also has a mystery box subscription and a range of toys that are sold via the major retailers and his website.

His most recent deal is to launch a range of sneakers he helped design with Sketchers.

The combination of the huge view numbers and the retail and endorsement deals saw the family remain at the top of the YouTube earning rankings for 2020 and match the almost R450 million in ads revenue with the same in other revenue.

It may sound like fun, but he has to fit all the filming to release a video almost every day and his schooling and then still have time to just play.

The family has a staff of about 30 to manage the production schedule from scripting to filming, animating and editing.

To keep up production, they have created new channels that feature his twins sisters animation series as well as two new characters Combo Panda that does more gaming content and Gus the Gummy Gator an animated series.

And then there are the channels that produce the content in Spanish and Japanese. Finally the family channel follows the day to day life of the family.

Not all fun

All the channels are focused on convincing parents to let their kids watch and to get the kids to want to watch often. The ads that run during the shows are one of the main sources of income as is the promotion of products.

YouTube accepted a $170 million fine for allowing ads to be targeted at children under 13 which resulted in a drop in ad revenues. The channel has also been criticised for not making it clear enough that products being featured are sponsored.

Like most new industries that have developed from the internet platforms there is a lag while regulations that apply to more established media get applied to these new ones.

While there is no sign of things slowing down, as Ryan moves into becoming a tween, his appeal to preschoolers will wane and no doubt so will his willingness to play with toys for little kids.

The moves to have his sisters play a bigger role allows them to step in and the animated characters can take over when the family is ready to step away from the live videos.

This resets the benchmark for success for a family business, but it will unfortunately inspire many to want to copy the success only to find an oversupply of excited children and parents spend possibly years trying to get noticed and fail.

This too is an area that could do with more regulation.

Then there is the question about just how much time kids should spend watching the endless supply of super engaging on demand content.

But when it comes to soaking up millions of hours of watch time, then the winner is another kids channel called Cocomelon.

The biggest kids channel on the planet

The animated kids songs channel that became Cocomelon in 2018 has 115 million subscribers and over 100 billion views.

One the top 20 list of most watch YouTube videos they feature twice (only Ed Sheeran exceeds them with three videos)

Baby Shark might be the most watched YouTube video of all time but Cocomelon has the more popular channel, new videos are produced every two days and most have over 10 million views. At about 30 mins each and there being over 600 to choose from, a three year old that watched two episodes every day would almost double their age before they caught up.

The concern by some groups is that because the videos are so engaging with bright colours and catchy tunes they could become too attached to them and may not be willing to stop after just one episode.

Getting children used to binge watching so young may lead to major issues later given how so many adults can get lost watching entire series in one sitting.

That may make you think of Netflix and how the world got hooked and then binged the Queen’s Gambit. Surely one of the most popular shows on Netflix, right? Yes, but it comes a distant second to Cocomelon that also streams its content on Netflix.

And they are available in 6 languages.

All this confirms that the future belongs to the young and that most children are more likely to grow up wanting to be YouTube stars that TV or movie stars.

14 July 2021 7:15 PM
Digital technology

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