Amazon Fire TV makes a home for YouTube superstars

The e-commerce giant's partnership with a video-tech company will put dedicated apps for YouTubers like beauty guru Michelle Phan and her network of Web stars directly on Amazon's streaming-TV gadgets.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
Expertise Streaming video, film, television and music; virtual, augmented and mixed reality; deep fakes and synthetic media; content moderation and misinformation online Credentials
  • Three Folio Eddie award wins: 2018 science & technology writing (Cartoon bunnies are hacking your brain), 2021 analysis (Deepfakes' election threat isn't what you'd think) and 2022 culture article (Apple's CODA Takes You Into an Inner World of Sign)
Joan E. Solsman
2 min read

Michelle Phan, a makeup guru who has built a mini empire off her 7.8 million YouTube subscribers, launched a network of like-minded video creators called Icon earlier this year.
Michelle Phan, a makeup guru who has built a mini empire off her 7.8 million YouTube subscribers, launched a network of like-minded video creators called Icon earlier this year. Getty Images

YouTube stars' path onto big TVs just got a little easier -- and maybe more lucrative.

Amazon, the nation's largest online-based retailer, has joined forces with a video-technology company so that YouTubers like beauty guru Michelle Phan can more easily put dedicated apps on its devices that play online video on any TV.

It's the latest in a crop of options that give you more ways to watch online video makers -- the biggest stars of the younger generation -- and also gives those creators more opportunities to spread their reach and make money. YouTubers, as they're known, are some of the most beloved celebrities among people in their teens and 20s. (Readers older than that: Ask your kids, nieces and nephews.) But for many of them, turning their followings into bigger business means expanding beyond Google's video site, which generally keeps 45 percent of ad revenue generated on their clips.

Amazon's partnership with Beachfront Media means creators like Phan and her Icon network of stars can more easily have their own app on the $99 Fire TV box and $39 Fire TV Stick . Beachfront makes the technology that helps YouTubers deploy their own apps on mobile devices and connected TVs.

Though you could already watch their YouTube videos on those gadgets through YouTube's app, having a dedicated app with a direct path onto Fire TV gives people like Phan more control over the video's money-making capabilities.

It marks a step in the right direction for Amazon's Fire TV and Fire TV Stick, which have failed to keep up with the reach of rivals like Apple TV , Roku's streaming video box or Google's Chromecast . Amazon doesn't release sales figures for its products, but independent estimates routinely put the installed base of Apple, Roku and Google's gadgets ahead of Amazon.

The size of Amazon's Fire TV user base is critical because with any medium that relies on advertising, the moneymaking power of a new distribution avenue boils down to how many people it can reach.

The first apps on Fire TV devices will include Phan's Icon network. Phan has evolved her YouTube channel of makeup tutorials with 7.8 million followers into a mini-empire that includes cosmetics-sample service Ipsy, which generates $150 million in annual sales, as well as a grouping of like-minded video creators who cross promote each others' clips. Others include Dormtainment, which has a Web series on Comedy Central, and WatchMojo, which makes daily video Top 10 lists.