Podcast host Ethan Klein is claiming in a series of YouTube videos and tweets that his content creator agency “stole” over $600,000 from him. Days after making allegations against the agency he’s had a relationship with since 2017, he confirmed in an April 12 livestream that he was going to get the money back.
What happened between Ethan Klein and BBTV?
h3h3productions, which is co-founded and owned by Klein and his wife, Hila, partnered with BBTV in 2017. Klein claimed in a video that the original agreement, which has been in effect since the partnership started, said that h3h3 got to keep 100% of YouTube revenue.
BroadbandTV (BBTV) was founded in 2005 on the cusp of the digital video revolution and works to help creators grow their audiences and drive revenue. According to its site, BBTV is the second-largest video property in the world after Google in terms of unique viewers.
“I never thought I’d be the last idiot to get by an MCN, but here I am,” Klein said in his first BBTV-related video from April 8. MCN stands for multi-channel networks, which began as management companies. BBTV is an MCN.
“When you sign up with an MCN, YouTube sends all of your ad revenue — everything you make via YouTube — to them and they send it to you,” Klein explained.
Klein reiterated that when h3h3productions originally signed the contract, the deal was that they would get 100% of the YouTube revenue. But if a company came to BBTV and asked to have an ad placed either in a podcast episode or in a video, then BBTV could get a cut of that ad revenue.
Klein included in his video what he claimed were screenshots from the original contract he signed with BBTV in 2017.
Klein also explained why h3h3productions got involved with BBTV in the first place. Klein and his wife started their YouTube account when they still lived in Israel. AdSense, which monetizes YouTube videos, only allows one account per YouTube channel, so since the couple lived in Israel, AdSense was sending money to an Israeli bank.
After the couple moved to the U.S., Klein claimed the only way they could get their YouTube revenue was by having YouTube send it to an MCN and then the MCN would send the money to them.
“The only way to get paid in our American bank accounts was to send it to the MCN first,” he said. “Which is crazy.”
According to Klein, creating a new AdSense account that would connect to the couples’ U.S.-based bank could take up to two weeks. That meant that, for two weeks, the couples’ channel would be demonetized and they would make no ad revenue.
“For me, I was just like, I don’t want to go through that,” Klein said. “But what happened recently was I got my payment stub from [BBTV] like usual, which shows basically how much they paid us. And when I went into YouTube Analytics I noticed it was significantly off.”
Klein added that he had been outsourcing the task of going through BBTV receipts to an unnamed accountant who he said left h3h3productions three months ago.
“It turns out, she wasn’t checking it at all,” he said. “I thought that she was doing it, which is why it went on for so long.”
Klein said he started looking into the BBTV paystub on April 4 and asked h3h3productions’ accountant to go over other paystubs to see if there were any discrepancies. According to Klein, the accountant allegedly found that BBTV had “skimmed” at least $620,000 from YouTube membership money. Klein emailed BBTV the same day and included a screenshot of his email in the video.
“These are people who are coming to us and showing us their direct support,” Klein said. “That was the whole point of this program.”
The h3h3productions YouTube channel has over 6 million subscribers and the H3 Podcast channel has almost 3 million subscribers. To join the H3 Podcast channel, users have the option to pay as little as $4.99 a month to $19.99 per month for extra membership perks that include access to the podcast Discord channel, behind-the-scenes videos, members-only chats and bonus weekly podcast episodes.
“It’s one of our main sources of income,” Klein said about the YouTube membership. “Part of what pisses me off is [BBTV] went after that money.”
YouTube memberships were not available in 2017 and it’s unclear whether Klein or BBTV tried to update the original contract when the H3 Podcast started using them. But YouTube membership money is paid through Google and, per the screenshot Klein included that allegedly came from the contract, BBTV had agreed to 100% of Google net revenue going directly to h3h3productions.
But, according to Klein, BBTV told him that YouTube memberships were classified as “Other Net Revenue,” which, allegedly per a clause in the contract, would only allow h3h3productions to get 70% of the total amount of membership money.
But Klein had a problem with using the clause as a reason for BBTV to allegedly keep the $620,000.
“There was no writing, there was no case-by-case basis,” he said. “This was [BBTV] silently saying, ‘Oh, there’s this huge new revenue stream coming in. Let’s fucking steal it secretly, silently, and hope they don’t notice.”
BBTV has not yet made a public statement in response to Klein’s accusations. A BBTV representative did provide a statement to Tubefilter, which said:
“In the 18 years that we have been in business supporting thousands of creators across the world, we have never commented on situations with individual creators. That said, we feel the need to set the record straight in the face of Ethan Klein’s numerous factually incorrect statements, egregious and untrue allegations, and defamatory comments about BBTV. We have at all times followed our contractual obligations to the letter and are prepared to defend ourselves against these allegations.”
Klein has added disclaimers to his allegations, including adding “in my opinion” almost every time he writes or says something along the lines of “BBTV and CEO Shahrzad Rafati stole $620,000 from me.”
Both BBTV’s Twitter and Rafati’s personal Twitter accounts are private.
Klein concluded the video by claiming that during a phone call with an unnamed BBTV employee, the employee said, as paraphrased by Klein: “At this time, we believe, by what the contract says, we’re justified in keeping this money and we will not be paying you back.”
“When I joined BBTV, they were the biggest MCN at the time and they’re a big company, they’re publicly traded,” Klein said. “So I never thought these guys are going to be stealing money from me.”
In response to the alleged phone call with BBTV, Klein said he has since paused the YouTube membership and is trying to make a new AdSense account connected to a U.S.-based bank.
“I don’t want this,” Klein pleaded at the end of the video. “Just give me the money back.”
In a follow-up video posted on April 9, Klein said his allegations against BBTV have pushed other creators with similar deals with BBTV to reexamine their paystubs and contracts. Klein also included a tweet YouTuber Kavos wrote on March 14 — weeks before Klein’s public allegations — sharing a screenshot of an email allegedly from BBTV that announced payouts would be pushed back a month.
In another tweet, Kavos, who has 1.26 million subscribers on YouTube, claimed that after “sending them loads of emails and pressure” he was paid on time despite the email.
“What’s interesting is I’m looking at my bank account and [BBTV] did pay me on March 16,” Klein said in his second video. “It seems like they’re only screwing over some creators. But the fear is, why are you paying some people and then not paying other people?”
On April 12, in a livestream on the H3 Podcast’s YouTube channel, Klein announced that BBTV is paying him back the full amount in one payment. According to Klein, Rafati told him on the phone that the money should be sent to him “as soon as possible.”
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