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Pro Wrestling caught up in YouTube’s effort to protect advertisers from offensive content

A recent change from YouTube, the Google-owned video sharing service which is one of the most highly-trafficked sites in the world, is costing a lot of content creators money. And pretty much anyone involved in the business of pro wrestling - from major players like WWE to little old Cageside Seats - are among those affected.

Last month (March 2017), YouTube implemented changes to their algorithm which determines on what videos the service places advertising and how content is categorized. This was in response to advertisers who began to pull their business from YouTube upon discovering their products and services were being promoted along with extremist programming and shows containing hate speech.

Part of these changes including labeling most pro wrestling content as “Restricted”. Videos which are classified as such are hidden from browsers and YouTube accounts set to “Restricted Mode”. YouTube’s description of that feature reads:

Restricted Mode hides videos that may contain inappropriate content flagged by users and other signals. No filter is 100% accurate, but it should help you avoid most inappropriate content.

The net, as independent companies like AIW and Beyond Wrestling have pointed out, is that fewer users are able to find their content, limiting views and any ad revenue which would come from those views. That is, if YouTube even places advertising on such “inappropriate content”, as the changes to their algorithm likely mean ads aren’t run with restricted material.

To smaller promotions and content-creators, this could be a major blow. Beyond has said they’d need to sell 250 DVDs per month to make up for their lost YouTube revenue. That WWE and major players have also been hit is being seen as a reason for optimism, as Vince McMahon and his shareholders are unlikely to accept a hit to their revenue - or a move that reinforces the notion sports entertainment isn’t family-friendly - without a fight.

It’s not just wrestling that’s impacted, either. According to reporting on NPR, content creators from areas as diverse as video gaming and advocacy around social issues report decreased viewership and lost ad revenue as a result of YouTube’s changes.

The company says the new policy is a work in progress, and their algorithm is “learning” while they give advertisers more control over where their ads run, similar to buying time on specific television programs. They’re also “accelerating appeals” from creators who’ve seen their channels “de-monetized”.

Expect this to remain a big story in the industry, and we’ll have more on it - including insight from companies and wrestlers feeling its effect - moving forward.

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