Chris Harris Steers Away from /Drive to Open His Own YouTube Channel

Famed hoonigan and auto journalist Chris Harris dropped a bomb on Sunday announcing that he’ll be moving away from /DRIVE to launch his very own YouTube Channel named ‘Chris Harris on Cars’ (CHOC) on November 12.

Harris released a statement on his Kinja page where he said that, while he’ll remain “a close friend of the /DRIVE brand and involved in its future productions”, he’ll offer his own content on the new channel that will be “free to air”.

If “free to air” translates to you won’t have to pay to watch (it’s not exactly clear), then we can’t help but think that it might have something to do with the reactions about /DRIVE’s decision to move its full content exclusively to the subscription-based channel DRIVE+ (Plus) in August that irked viewers and still does to this day.

/DRIVE came to life in the beginning of 2012 with the team including Chris Harris, Matt Farah from TheSmokingTire, Michael Spinelli of Jalopnik, and Gumballer Alex Roy.

Harris’ latest announcement comes less than two weeks after he resigned as a columnist on Pistonheads on October 3.

Something that many of you may not be aware of is that, previously, on the same blog, he explained why /DRIVE was forced to move to a subscription-only model. In his own words, the /DRIVE team was initially created after receiving funding from YouTube for a motoring channel for two years.

“YouTube underwrote two years of DRIVE programming and I loved every minute of it. At the end of 2013 the funding ended and we had to look for ways to keep DRIVE alive,” Harris wrote on a post dated July 30.

“All YouTube videos monetise through advertising, so it should have been easy to simply raise a production budget and then watch the advertising dollars roll in. The problem is, the dollars never really have rolled in and the revenue share with YouTube itself allows us to retain just 55 per cent of earnings. So it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out that we need other revenue streams, one of which is a subscription service for longer-form videos,” Harris explained.

“Now I’m fully aware that just the notion of me and my colleagues attempting to charge for video content will cause much unrest. It’s not greed; just basic mathematics,” he added.

To his credit, Harris opened up and shared some numbers associated with Drive’s effort on Youtube:

“Remember that rather lovely F40/F50 video we shot at Angelsey? It cost £9,000 [$14,500] to shoot, and despite amassing two million views, to date has grossed us just £4,800 [$7,700],” said Harris. “The maths is pretty stark across the board – even the McLaren P1 video has racked up plenty of views, over 3.6 million in fact, but its total revenue is £9,200 [$14,800]. That means we’re in profit, but only because it was an official launch event and Woking paid for mine and Neil’s flights, and JF who was second camera used his air miles to get from the US!”

That should give you a sense of what gives with far less popular videos.

Judging by the persisting negative reactions on the web about the subscription model, I think /DRIVE could have:

a) maybe done a better job in communicating the financial aspect of the venture with their viewership

b) perhaps followed a different path, offering more than just an online channel, a bundle of related contents, if you will – i.e. things like access to website(s) and forum(s), connect to a new or existing publication, and special offers from partners who would give meaningful discounts (i.e. what BMWCCA does) etc. etc.

As much as what Harris says about the costs of producing videos makes sense, unfortunately, asking typical internet-users who are used to free content to pay $3.99 month to watch a single channel is a very tough sale these days, one that only long-established and hugely successful names like Top Gear seem to be able to pull off in the automotive world.

Chris Harris’ Statement on Moving Away from /DRIVE

“January 2012 seems a long, long time ago. Back then I was told by people who didn’t know much that a web car video should be less than three minutes long and that overtseer was unpopular. I think we proved them wrong and am grateful to YouTube for giving me the chance to destroy tyres that other people pay for.

I’m also excited to announce that I’ve started working on my next phase of tyre obliteration and will be launching something new very soon. I’ll remain a close friend of the /DRIVE brand and involved in its future productions, but will be offering even more access to my content through the next phase of Chris Harris on Cars, which will launch its new YouTube channel, free to air, November 12.

Special thanks go to Neil Carey, my sidekick in so many adventures and, if he can still handle the general mentalness, the man who will work with me on this next phase. Of course the biggest thanks go to all the viewers who have supported my little show. I look forward to welcoming you to the next phase very soon.”

Opening photo via Chris [email protected]

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