There's really no denying how far YouTube has come as a platform. What started as a tiny video site meant for uploading vacation clips has become a multi-million dollar brand, with individual channels that are bigger than some television networks.
Over the past few years, said channels have basically become their own businesses. Channels like PewDiePie and Smosh are essentially miniaturized production studios, complete with merchandise and advertising contracts. It's no secret that the largest channels on YouTube are making some serious money — and now, fans can see exactly how much their favorite YouTube stars are making.
Forbes has compiled a list of the highest-paid YouTube stars of 2015, and while the results aren't all that surprising, it's still amazing to see how much these channels can make. It's certainly not Fortune 500 money, but there's still a ton of money being funneled through a site that most people assume is for goofing off and nothing more.
Unsurprisingly, PewDiePie (real name Felix Kjellberg) sits at the top of the list with an estimated $12 million in pre-tax revenue. The sketch comedy powerhouses Smosh and The Fine Brothers are tied for second, with $8.5 million a piece, followed by violinist Lindsey Stirling at $6 million for third place.
Twelve million dollars may not sound all that impressive when compared with someone like a big-time Hollywood star — but if you think about it, the fact that someone can make that much money simply by uploading videos to a free platform is astounding. On top of all that, PewDiePie alone commands an army of over 40 million subscribers — that's roughly five times the population of New York City, and they're all helping him pull in even more cash.
It should be noted that the figures above are estimates, not solid figures: Forbes has made some educated guesses in regard to some of the figures, so it's possible that the numbers are off (though any discrepancies would likely be small).
For years, cable-cutters have been claiming that television is a dying medium — and, while such a statement is obviously extreme, it's figures like these that make the argument a lot more convincing.