- The creator-focused streaming service Nebula was founded in 2019 by Dave Wiskus.
- The streamer was valued at $50 million in September amid an investment by Curiosity Stream.
- Now, its stable of video essayists like Legal Eagle and Wendover Productions are launching online courses.
Nebula, a creator-focused
The three-year-old company, which was valued at $50 million in September as part of an equity investment by the non-fiction streaming service Curiosity Stream, is launching a new format: “Nebula Classes.”
Nebula’s core service gets subscribers ad-free YouTube videos, bonus content, and originals produced in-house. Now, it will expand as some creators – including gaming-focused LowSpecGamer and music reviewers Volksgeist and Aimee Nolte Music – launch 60-minute, multi-chapter courses for Nebula members.
Lawtuber Legal Eagle (2.25 million subscribers) will instruct viewers “How to Sue Like a Lawyer,” for instance, while travel and geography-focused Wendover Productions (5.5 million subscribers) will lead “Mastering Everyday Persuasion.”
Nebula founder Dave Wiskus told Insider that given the company’s sweet spot in niche, mid-sized vloggers (10,000 to 500,000 views per video) who dissect various regions of nerd culture, online courses felt like a natural extension.
The startup Masterclass, which hit a $2.75 billion valuation last May, popularized the format of online courses led by celebrities. The format has subsequently been embraced by the likes of Studio (which offers courses led by YouTubers like Casey Neistat, Pentatonix, and Simone Giertz). Many creators are also pocketing serious cash by harnessing third-party platforms like Kajabi, Teachable, and Maven to host and sell their own courses.
While Nebula Classes are exclusive to those within its fleet, the company covers all associated production costs and is paying creators a stipend as it gets the format off the ground.
Curiosity Stream is a big part of Nebula’s business
Wiskus, a high-school dropout and content creator in his own right, founded Nebula’s parent company, Standard, in 2013. Standard is an
agency that works with YouTubers to secure brand deals, as well as on other services like merch and content strategy. It has 80 employees, 30 of whom are dedicated to Nebula.
Nebula’s business is also deeply tied to Curiosity Stream, the publicly traded non-fiction streaming service founded by Discovery Channel vet John Hendricks. Like Nebula, Curiosity Stream is focused on “edutainment,” with an eye to science, nature, and history. It counts 23 million subscribers and reported $71.3 million in revenue last year.
The relationship began as a marketing pact, whereby Curiosity Stream paid Nebula streamers to shout out its service in their YouTube videos, and then bundled free access to Nebula when viewers signed up for a Curiosity Stream subscription, which is currently priced at $3 per month. (Nebula declined to disclose how much it is paid by Curiosity Stream for each bundled user.)
Nebula as a standalone service is currently priced at $5 per month. With the addition of Classes, the service will raise its subscription price for all users to $10 per month. (Current subscribers won’t see the price hike until January 2023, however.) Curiosity Stream will offer Classes as a $5 upcharge.
When asked why a viewer might opt to pay for the more-expensive Nebula standalone subscription rather than signing up for the Curiosity Stream bundle, Wiskus noted that the primary impetus of paying for Nebula for many subscribers was to show support for their favorite creators.
But he said most users do choose the Curiosity Stream bundle. In fact, the money derived from the Curiosity Stream sponsorships accounts for the majority of Nebula’s revenue, and the bundled accounts comprise the vast majority of its about 500,000 subscribers.
Wiskus also said that Curiosity Stream had increased the payouts to Nebula creators who do promotions for its service.
“Creators who were making a couple thousand dollars for a sponsorship before are making a couple hundred thousand dollars per sponsorship now,” Wiskus said.
Getting paid ‘4 times for doing one piece of work’
The ownership structure of Nebula is a bit complicated.
Standard (which is owned by Wiskus and roughly 30 creators) owns a majority stake in Nebula, with Curiosity Stream having taken the minority stake in September.
An agreement stipulates that if Nebula is ever acquired in full or by majority, 50% of proceeds will go to current creators on the platform. Standard and Curiosity Stream would then split the other 50%.
In addition to earnings from brand deals arranged by Standard, Nebula creators also receive 50% of monthly subscription profits, which are divvied up based on the amount of watch time that they drive. Wiskus said that Nebula is profitable.
“So it’s like, we’ll pay you to make a thing, we’ll pay you to promote that thing, and we’ll pay you when people watch the thing that we promoted – and then, in the end, if it ever gets sold, you get a cut of the money,” Wiskus said. “So you kind of get paid four times for doing one piece of work … The whole system is designed so that all roads lead back to creator revenue.”