Natalie Tran: Bigger than free TV

Earlier we published a guest post from YouTube.

In it, Karen Stocks offered some data that made my jaw drop once I started thinking about it

Natalie Tran, a 24 year old Sydney student, had more viewers on YouTube that week than Nine did for Top Gear.  

In data that isn’t usually released by YouTube, Stocks – Head of Display, Media Platforms & YouTube, Google Australia & New Zealand – offered some info on Australia’s most viewed video creators.

It was a response to our report on a session at Adtech where both NineMSN and Yahoo7’s content bosses were pessimistic that video content makers could reach a big enough audience to monetise their work.

And topping the list is Tran, whose YouTube channel is Community Channel.

In the second week of March, she had 876,106 views.

I knew she was popular, but compare that to Australian free TV, to understand just how popular.

If she’d been on free TV, she’d have been the 42nd biggest show of that week, based on OzTam’s data.

She had more viewers than Nine’s Customs (876,000), Sunday’s edition of ABC News (872,000), RPA (868,000), The Mentalist (863,000), RBT (856,000). And indeed Top Gear (818,000).

I could go on. And I will. Tran had more viewers than most of Nine’s prime time lineup – Send In The Dogs, Mike & Molly, This is Your Life, Australia’s Funniest Home Videos and of course Two And A Half Men and Shit My Dad Says.

She was also ahead of some key Seven programming – like How I Met Your Mother, Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives.

And more popular than Ten’s House, Biggest Loser challenge episode, The 7PM Project and Hawaii Five-O.

And indeed more popular than the ABC’s Adam Hills In Gordon Street Tonight. And SBS and pay TV don’t have a single show that’s more popular than Tran.

There are a few caveats to that data.

First, the OzTam data I refer to is metro only so doesn’t take into account regional audience.

And second, the YouTube data is for global views of Australian-made content. However, a Google spokesman tells me: “Given that these partners produce their videos primarily for an Australian audience the majority of their views comes from AU.”

And third, that’s Tran’s aggregated views across all of her content. However, she gets most of her views from her freshest stuff – her most recent piece (embedded above) has had 1.1m views in four days. If Google has been comparing this week, she’d probably have been competing with free TV’s top ten shows.

And nonetheless, it does point to a big trend.

A trend where a 24-year-old can challenge TV networks for audience. And win.

Tim Burrowes


  1. Julian Cole
    17 Mar 11
    5:50 pm

  2. I am sick of seeing this argument rolled out by Youtube. Natalie Tran is an anomaly for Youtubers in Australia. Tell me five other Australian Youtubers who regularly get over 20,000 views???? The fact is that there is no one else but Natalie in Australia.

  3. Myspazz
    17 Mar 11
    5:53 pm

  4. How many views are Australian. How many views are duplicates. How many views are to the end?

    This is a ridiculous comparison. Comparing yt views globally of a 4 min clip to average audience for a 1 hour show is not right.

    Cmon mumbrella, you can do better than this. Nice story but it’s full of holes.

  5. mumbrella
    17 Mar 11
    6:01 pm

  6. Hi Julian,

    If you follow the link through to the Google/ YouTube piece they offer a top ten of Australian content, all of which had more than 60,000 views in the week.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  7. Adam Paull
    17 Mar 11
    6:09 pm

  8. All true and a very interesting development for local TV networks, but it should also be pointed out that that comparing a 60 minute and 30 minute program to a 2:48 one isn’t entirely fair. I wonder how many more people sampled three minutes of RPA, ABC News or Top Gear? Sadly, we’ll never know.

    It’s true that video content is being consumed in smaller and smaller chunks, particularly on mobile devices. The current broadcasting model may well change to reflect this over time, but a 60 minute episode of a television program can support and generate a lot more advertising revenue than a 3 minute clip.

    For now, anyway…

  9. Sheridan Jobbins
    17 Mar 11
    6:13 pm

  10. She’s a phenomenon, to be sure. But one based one on genial, amusing, and consistent content – you can’t say the same for Free to Air production in Australia. There may not be many Australians matching her – but in the YouTube channel she holds her own with others such as vloggers… and I can’t wait to see what she does to your comments page.

  11. @Drivelry
    17 Mar 11
    6:28 pm

  12. Wonder what Lonely Planet is paying Ms Tran to promote them ever so subtly in these?

    Looks like it could have been a bargain.

  13. Jonathan Betts
    17 Mar 11
    6:30 pm

  14. I think Adam has it spot on here.

    The number of people prepared and able to watch a sub 3 minute video is much higher than the number of people prepared to spend an hour watching Top Gear. For Top Gear to get a similar number means it practice that it is much better content which is much more able to hold an audience.

    Additionally, the fact that the content has to be so short to get an equivalent audience actually supports the arguments that the people from NineMSN and Yahoo7 were making at ad:tech. You cannot get the audience to watch the same amount of advertising, and therefore budget to support making the content, from a 3 minute clip.

  15. Pete
    17 Mar 11
    7:01 pm

  16. I agree Nat is great and I love watching her vlogs… but you have to remember that she is ‘on demand’. Those TV shows aren’t. Big fact your leaving out!

  17. Garrick Kalman
    17 Mar 11
    7:02 pm

  18. No, you cant really compare a short youtube clip with a 30/60 min TV show with regards to advertising potential… chalk and cheese.. for most of those shows the budget to make them is huge… charlie sheen was on what? 1.3 mil per episode?

    according to the smh article i read in november (from memory) last year, natalie has some sponsorship with regards to equipment.. cameras, editing software etc.. but does not take cash.. so any costs would come out of what she makes from the adds on youtube.. definition of a shoestring budget…

    my point is that the cost structure doesn’t match up… this article is about views.. i would like to ask at this point, how many people watching those shows on tv did so purely becasue “there was nothing else on”? or channel surfed between a couple of them..

    natalie tran is a remarkable young lady, a pioneer of vlogging. youtube is just her media.

    if she wants it, natalie has a big future in tv as either an actor or director.. its just a shame that she may have to move to the U.S to make that happen. give her a mandate, a budget and a 30/60 minute time slot and i am convinced that she could mix it up with the best.

    hopefully the tv (or feature film) bigwigs will start paying her some attention in the near future.

    on the off chance that natalie herself should read this… i want to thank you for the laughs, and to state that as a sydneysider it is still my greatest ambition in life to run into you on the street (yea, i know, low end goals heh).

    and yes, thankyou, but i know i cant spell.


    garrick kalman
    twitter hund27

  19. mikezed
    17 Mar 11
    7:10 pm

  20. Whilst there may only be Natalie in Australia, there are a range of YouTube stars that get decent audiences of Australians – Fast Talking Fred’s best video rated 50m views, and Australia is his biggest audience outside the US (Fred’s audiences have sadly diminished as he has grown older). And yet they don’t seem to have queue of locally based advertisers outside their doors at the moment…

    I found it interesting at AdTech that the “Future of TV” panel discussion also asserted that the only people who funded the production of “quality content” was TV networks and broadcasters, which was somewhat ironic given the Activision keynote showing how gaming content delivered revenue that was a factor of 10 bigger than the biggest movie.

    Whilst the “straight to YouTube” content production market is small, it’s certainly grown over the last 5 years, and as it all cross connects device wise, measuring and comparing the value of audiences is going to become more and more interesting.

  21. Doodle Pip
    17 Mar 11
    8:36 pm

  22. I don’t see how you can compare Natalie’s 3 min clips with an hour long program and draw the conclusion that she is challenging traditional media outlets. They are completely different. If you were trying to demonstrate the fact that new media is usurping traditional media then you took a bad route.

  23. hermyslilsis
    18 Mar 11
    5:58 am

  24. @Drivelry

    They’re paying for her travels around the world currently, she’s been to 11 different exotic locations so far, 10 different countries.

    I certainly hope it was bargin, it couldn’t have been cheap, but as an aware consumer, I’m going to use Lonely Planet for my travel needs from now on. I want to encourage interest in Youtube celebrities, and reward advertising with them.

    By the way, I am American.

  25. anon
    18 Mar 11
    7:57 am

  26. What a load of drivel Tim.

    The comparison is ridiculous. Your bias against TV is starting to really show of late.

  27. mumbrella
    18 Mar 11
    8:52 am

  28. Hi anon,

    I love telly, me.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  29. Julian Cole
    18 Mar 11
    9:01 am

  30. Here is just a bit of background research on their numbers they produced for you.

    Guy Collins – is struggling to get over 10,000 for his last two videos, before then he was sponsored by videobash – 3 hit wonder.

    ipodmail is a computer gaming walk through guy who is struggling to get over 20,000 for his videos

    Allnewsweb – UFO sightings global sight which struggles to get over 10,000 views for a video –

    Nintendo3DS – just talks about Ninetendo struggles to get over 20,000 –

    ChoonyDay – Copy cutter Community Channel who is the only legitimate one for this list –

    Gradual Report – He is american, not from Australia –

    Outback Zack – Good chance he is American too –

    Ten and ABC News – ?!?!

  31. Scott Taylor
    18 Mar 11
    9:14 am

  32. Ok tv fans, so maybe the header of the article is a little over the top…but the comparison is still interesting.

    Similar to Garrick, I’d like to see a cost per minute to produce figure to compare, but I won’t hold my breath.

    Also do you think advertisers would care if their ads/products sat within in a 30 minute show getting 800k views or a 3 minute on demand show getting 800k views? Admittedly, less space to sell, but is that a bad thing?

  33. Thomas Dodson
    18 Mar 11
    11:45 am

  34. Tim, dont feed the troll…..

    anon, go back to 4chan..

  35. BC
    18 Mar 11
    2:30 pm

  36. Just for a little perspective, don’t suppose you’d consider comparing apples to apples? The numbers you’re pulling on TV audiences for Top 10 peak programs are limited to the average of audience for the full program at the time of broadcast. Granted Nat Tran’s numbers are good, but they’ve had more than the actual time of broadcast to build.

    A true comparison would need to put up peak audience plus any digital consumption, plus any PVR viewing – against unduplicated audience from just one of Tran’s YouTube vids.

  37. tbone
    18 Mar 11
    2:33 pm

  38. Relax guys! the point is not to stop using TV, it’s just to highlight that there is actually volume behind some of these opportunities. It doesn’t mean TV is dead.

    Lonely Planet got it right, global brand / global audience – easy – they probably just covered the cost of her round the world trip.

  39. Mumbrella Reader
    18 Mar 11
    2:45 pm

  40. Big shout out to my girl Nat!

    Julian, don’t hate on MyChonny (aka Chonny Day). His videos are NOTHING like Community Channel’s – have you even watched one?

  41. Tom Petryshen
    18 Mar 11
    3:04 pm

  42. Seriously, who watches a full 30 min or an hour of telly any more. What advertisers don’t realise is that I’m more valuable to one who sponsors or splices an ad into a 3 minute episode than an advertiser who pretends that I’m not skipping their expensive TVC placed in a 30 min episode of #%& my Dad Says.

    What this article and the comments clarify is the clear gap between advertisers’ perceptions (and those who work in the industry) of reality and the changing viewing habits of consumers.

    Now excuse me while I go look up a chemist in the yellow pages.

  43. Alison F
    18 Mar 11
    3:26 pm

  44. So… how does one advertise on Natalie’s show??? Is she taking media bookings?

  45. kingbadger
    18 Mar 11
    4:04 pm

  46. “Given that these partners produce their videos primarily for an Australian audience the majority of their views comes from AU.”

    Where is the proof behind that? Looking at Natalie’s latest vid, she is heavily popular in Canda, USA, UK, Scandinavia, India, and Australia. The Goog spokesman’s generalisation is meaningless. Just because he works for Google doesn’t make his words authoritative.

    Natalie doesn’t “produce [her] videos primarily for an Australian audience”. She makes her videos for anyone. The spokesman is talking nonsense. The spokesman’s words sound like typical vacuous talking-head duckspeak.

  47. Tom Petryshen
    18 Mar 11
    4:17 pm

  48. Alison, you can run display ads within Nat’s channel or run in-stream video. See youtube’s advertising &

  49. Mal
    18 Mar 11
    6:05 pm

  50. The Community Channel numbers are truly extraordinary. While YouTube’s audience is global, Community Channel’s content and appeal is to younger viewers. The comparisons in the story are with All People TV viewing, and they’re impressive enough, but an Apples with Apples comparison would be with programs targeting a similar younger age group. There are around 4.5 million Australians aged 13-24. Even if only half of her viewers are in Australia, then she is likely to be reaching around 10% of them a week. This young woman is achieving the holly grail – niche scale. I expect that soon marketers are going to be offering her a lot more than some free overseas travel.

  51. bob
    18 Mar 11
    7:40 pm

  52. OK, she’s cute and she shows off the cleavage from time to time, but why the heck does she have so many viewers.

    She ain’t that funny or amusing and if I want porn, there’s heaps of that.

    I’d rather watch the latest baby laughing or kitten video

  53. Savarge
    19 Mar 11
    8:19 pm

  54. A more apt comparison would be to a Top Gear YouTube clip….8.5m views. GG Natalie.

  55. mumbrella
    20 Mar 11
    7:04 am

  56. Hi Savarge,

    Top Gear’s YouTube channel uploads have delivered 193m views. Natalie Tran’s Community Channel channel 357m.

    To Gear’s direct channel views – 15m; Community Channel, 47m.

    Top Gear’s channel’s most viewed clip – 5.9m; Community Channel’s 34m. And no, I haven’t got the decimal point in the wrong place.


    Tim – Mumbrella

  57. Craig
    20 Mar 11
    6:06 pm

  58. Remember how many 3 minute clips an audience can watch in a thirty minute period – advertisers can attach more ads to the clips than in the regulated world of TV advertising.

    Also you can track people across programs and target the ads. Let’s see anyone track a viewer across TV channels and follow them with ads…except if it is cable (and in Australia they didn’t build the networks to do this).

    Television is on a downward curve, web video is on an upwards curve, and there’s lots of convergence to happen in the middle. Shouldn’t that mean that you invest in understanding newer mediums rather than poo pooing it?

    By all means keep buying your television ads – but do it strategically, not as a given.

  59. Johnny D
    20 Mar 11
    6:36 pm

  60. @bob
    18 Mar 11
    7:40 pm

    Obviously you dont “get” her. Move along.

  61. Simon T Small
    20 Mar 11
    11:03 pm

  62. The comparison of 3mins to 30+mins of content isn’t really fair I agree, however, it’s worth keeping in mind (as Garrick pointed out) that when watching TV you have 17 channels to choose from, online you have 17 billion options.

    So if nothing else, Natalie will be a powerful force in the future, and in the meantime I’ll just love her show.

  63. Nigel
    21 Mar 11
    10:04 am

  64. The comparison in audience ie Nat v Top Gear is silly. The number for Top Gear is based on one episode on 1 night. The number for Nat is a cume figure across an entire week. FTV weekly cume is currently around 15million. This article is silly.

  65. jean cave
    21 Mar 11
    10:48 am

  66. Message here is that TV programmes need to be shorter and snappier . . free of padding. Eg. I watched Best Bits of Summer Heights High on You Tube . . hilarious, but the original full length prog was tiresome to watch and I am a grey-ager!!
    More diversity & young bloods have a chance to get slot at premium time.
    You could say to the kids that they can watch for ten minutes and mean it.
    Programme-makers have fun &Move into the 21st Century pace..

  67. John Grono
    21 Mar 11
    1:18 pm

  68. Yes, jaw dropping is correct

    Jaw dropping in just how poor the ‘analysis’ in this ‘report’ is. There are SO many problems with it, some of which Tim pointed out (metro TV vs global usage, Community Channel usage vs a single programme).

    We’re also comparing short-form content views (completed views or just started views) versus a programme average. Take for instance the first programme that she ‘beat’ – Customs. While that half hour programme averaged 876,000 (leaving aside the 33,000 who watched it in time-shift within 7 days) it reached 1.72 million (must have watched at least 1 minute). Even if that is changed to having to watch 3 minutes (the typical duration on The Community Channel), we’re still talking 1.292 million people.

    Put another way, a single programme that went for 30 minutes got 1.292 million people viewing at least 3 minutes of it in just the 5 Australian capital cities (around 0.2% of the global population) and it compares unfavourably to the ‘channel total’ of The Commumity Channel which mustered 876,106 people across that week GLOBALLY.

    It’s hard to express how underwhelming that comparison is Tim.

    While I was on her site I also noticed that the largest views I could spot was 12,275,692 for ‘Bending At The Knees For Love’ – an impressive figure no doubt! That is the cumulative views for the 3:36 clip since May 10, 2009. Over those 680 days it has averaged 18,052 views per day – globally.

    Don’t get me wrong – I love Natalie Tran.

    What I don’t like is pumped up analyses that don’t compare like-for-like. And sadly, this is one of the worst I have seen in a long time.

  69. Ben
    21 Mar 11
    2:26 pm

  70. G’day,

    I would like to put in my vote for “good solid interesting comparison” and also say that when you consider the budget she is working with compared to say Top Gear, it is a remarkable achievement.

    21 Mar 11
    4:18 pm

  72. Communitychannel is one of YouTube Partners carefully selected for in your face promotion after YouTube revamp >> Extra Views

    When comments are made the user does a page refresh >> Extra Views

    Top Gear and Lonely Planet (Communitychannel sponsor) are BBC Worldwide productions

    Lonely Planet A$85m sales 2010
    Top Gear, Doctor Who and BBC Earth A$240m sales 2010

    I hope Natalie Tran is being well paid :)

  73. John Grono
    21 Mar 11
    5:50 pm

  74. Well ‘’ it depends on your definition of “well paid”. Natalie was #10 in the Top 10 YouTube earners with $101k USD (I think that wasto the middle of 2010). See

  75. John Hollands
    22 Mar 11
    9:37 am

  76. What is being missed here is the completely different ways advertisers can measure effectiveness or viewers.
    On the ‘Net, dear readers, EVERYTHING is measured (where from, how many, how long, uniques) whereas on television (at least, that small sector called free-tv) NOTHING can be measured outside a statistically-correct group of people with people meters.
    I’d suggest people allowing people meters in their homes are more likely to be keen tele watchers than the rest of us. AND, I’d bet any of them leaving the tv off for long periods would be bumped. Tell me I’m wrong.
    In other words, as HUTS fall away, who’d be the last to know?
    (Unless we read it on the internet…)

  77. Jean Cave ((Real Name)
    22 Mar 11
    10:14 am

  78. A really well constructed, vibrant, of it’s time TV show will be reiterated and continue to be resold millions of times over decades. Eg. Red Dwarf (BBC).Therefore TV programme makers should perhaps concentrate on making quality rewatchable shows.

    Seriously I doubt that much internettarge will have the same lasting appeal except maybe to students doing a thesis on this period of time.

  79. anon1
    22 Mar 11
    10:21 am

  80. I don’t watch conventional TV mainly because of the adverts: they are intrusive, unfunny, bigoted and sexist. When I visit a relative’s house and see them, it is like stepping back in time.

    YouTube isn’t yet over-polluted by the kind of shitty, outdated, offensively patronising commercial messages that the Australian advertising industry generates. Nor are torrents, legally bought downloads, and services like the ABC or BBC iPlayer.

    Increasing numbers of people just aren’t willing to suffer for their content. Besides which, you can’t pause and rewind conventional TV (unless you’ve pre-recorded it) which is irritating and inconvenient.

    I don’t personally watch Natalie Tran, but it’s no surprise to me that’s she’s more popular than a lot of FTA channels.

  81. John Grono
    22 Mar 11
    10:57 am

  82. John Hollands – you asked – you are right in some respects and you are wrong in others.

    There is the concern that people who agree to TV meters COULD be heavier viewers of TV. As per all research (yes even on the Internet) response bias exists and can’t be measured. What I do know is that the rigour that goes around the design, recruitment and management of the TV panel far exceeds that of any other medium. No sample is perfect, however, the TV panels are pretty darned good.

    As for “AND, I’d bet any of them leaving the tv off for long periods would be bumped. Tell me I’m wrong.” … well that is where you are wrong. You’d have to be nuts to think that the media buying agencies would accept a system that would allow that.

    For example, 23% of people (in the panel) yesterday watched no television at all. Last week 8% of people watched no TV at all (with the caveat that we’re talking about homes that have a TV – over 99% of all homes in Australia, so maybe add 1 point to the results above).

    What IS checked for in the panel is where there are continuous periods where a person in a home hasn’t watched TV. This generally indicates that they are either on holidays (left in as a non-viewer), the home has bought another TV and this person watches the new TV (that TV is installed or the home is removed), that they have decided to not watch TV and for example just watch via the internet (left in as a non-viewer).

    If I contrast this to internet measurement, where there is a proliferation of reporting of “monthly unique browsers” STILL occurring then TV stacks up incredibly well. Monthly UBs don’t take into account cookie deletion etc. It would be like a TV network adding together the 4 episodes of a programme like Top Gear and reporting that instead of the average audience. If you have any doubts – just look at the total market Monthly UBs which are now around 120 million in a country with a population of 22.5 million and tell me that there is nothing wrong. And yes, we’re working on fixing it up.

  83. Logic
    22 Mar 11
    12:17 pm

  84. It baffles me that digital people come in and try and claim TV measurement is flawed and broken – TV is a $3b or thereabouts industry and numerous agency businesses are built on a framework of diligence around TV buying – why would they allow a system that was flawed.

    John Hollands – just becasue you can measure something doesn’t mean it’s important. And just because you can measure more babble on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s not as or more flawed than any other media measuring tool.

  85. John Hollands
    22 Mar 11
    2:21 pm

  86. Hey @Logic
    Everything you say is true – depending on perspective.
    I worked in TV for basically forty years, I’m not new to TV. But for anybody to claim (as some seem to) that TV is preeminent and always will be are bound to be proven wrong. Maybe not this week…
    Look at the glory days of radio, where live audiences and large orchestras thronged to hear Bob Dyer and Jack Davey do their shows. Those days, where EVERYBODY listened to the serials while crowded around the bakerlite Atwater-Kent have gone.
    Just as surely the emphasis will shift in the future. Nothing’s surer.
    I’m probably just saying, let’s not be like the Printers who took their eye off the Macintosh and went out of business.
    Some people make things happen, some watch what happens and some wonder what happened.

  87. John Hollands
    22 Mar 11
    2:29 pm

  88. @Logic
    I suddenly was struck by a thought!
    You mention “babble on the internet” as though it is a bad thing – and yet isn’t that exactly what WE are doing???
    Mate, this ain’t babble, this is GOLD!

  89. mikezed
    26 Mar 11
    6:53 pm

  90. An interesting article on AdAge about YouTube starting to work directly with content creators, commissioning content for their platform, presumably so they can sell more advertising around that content –

    Sounds like a remarkably familiar model…. Be interesting if people like Natalie start selling their content to people like 9, as well as putting it up on YouTube, and vice versa. It’s all content after all, and ultimately it’s the quality that counts

  91. James
    28 Mar 11
    4:26 pm

  92. I started watching Natalie, but stopped after 20-30 seconds. Does this still count as a view?

  93. John Grono
    28 Mar 11
    4:54 pm

  94. Yes it does James. That is why with TV we report the average audience as the primary metric. Of course, we are also able to calculate the reach based on various thresholds, but I keep getting told that is so last century.

    If you can get average session time, and you know the duration of the clip, you can calculate the equivalent average audience for comparison.

  95. Carole Ann Goldsmith
    28 Mar 11
    5:36 pm

  96. I am really not sure why people watch her as she does not say anything that I can learn anything about. Why does she have such an audience? Give me a good movie or show on SBS anytime, at least I learn and grow my brain.

  97. John Hollands
    28 Mar 11
    7:30 pm

  98. If I were at Nine, I’d grab her up. I bet she’d do an economical deal. I’d guest her on Getaway and 60 minutes, push her into some children’s programming.

    She’d probably cost less per week than a chopper’s tank of avgas.

    If we had the cash WE’D warehouse her.

    I’d cross-platform her like crazy, monetising both ways, get punters to pay for SMS votes or competitions. She IS that 18-25 demographic. That’s why some of old frtz don’t get her. Personally, I liked her from the start – those “puzzle” videos were inspired and funny and fresh.

  99. John Hollands
    28 Mar 11
    7:36 pm

  100. Here’s the video “Can you solve this?”

  101. Garrick Kalman
    28 Mar 11
    9:04 pm

  102. or funniest home videos… She could do her own skit once per show in the style of her youtube clips.

    About the only watching for 30 seconds comment counting as a ‘view’. The add still pops up for that 30 seconds… So yea, it sure does count.

    Garrick kalman

    Hund27 on twitter