YouTube Channels vs. Wistia Channels

March 21, 2019

Topic tags

Phil Nottingham


If you’ve been following along lately, then chances are you’ve heard about our newest feature, Wistia Channels. In case you missed the launch, Channels allow businesses to transform a group of videos into a highly engaging, immersive collection that lives right on your site. Naturally, one of the first questions that comes to the mind of any marketer is, "What makes this any different than a YouTube Channel?"

The main differences between the two are grounded in the business models of the companies behind the tools. YouTube Channels are an organizational tool for the biggest advertising network in the world. They’re designed to encourage viewers to click around and watch as many videos as possible so that YouTube (and ultimately, Google) can serve more ads and meet the demands of advertisers.

Play your videos in a distraction-free, premium-quality format that matches the look and feel of your brand. Get started with Wistia for free!

Wistia Channels, on the other hand, are a paid-for marketing tool. They’re designed to encourage viewers to consume as much of your video content as possible, in a distraction-free environment, so that businesses can build brand affinity and generate more leads.

The main difference between the two here is that one platform provides a social experience and the other provides a brand experience.

Subscribing to a Channel vs. Subscribing to a Business

YouTube is structured around Channels, rather than businesses. When a user clicks the “Subscribe” button on a YouTube Channel, it signs them up to receive notifications about new videos added to that particular Channel, but not anything else from the business who “owns” the Channel itself. So, if you want to have multiple YouTube Channels, with different topics of focus, you end up spreading your audience very thin.

“If you want to have multiple YouTube Channels, with different topics of focus, you end up spreading your audience very thin.”

In practice, most businesses respond to this limitation by only having one solitary YouTube Channel that they treat like a cupboard. This Channel then lives on to serve the purpose of consolidating views and subscriptions.

Wistia Channels don’t suffer from those same limitations. When a user fills out an email capture form on a video, they’re subscribing to the business as a whole (in accordance with the marketing automation and nurture campaigns you have set up). In practice, this means you can create as many Channels as you want, each with a different focus and set of videos, knowing that each new Channel you create is adding value, rather than cannibalizing your efforts elsewhere.

Product feature breakdown

Features YouTube Channels Wistia Channels
Player design No customization options Change the color and font to match your brand
Header ImageStatic bannerStatic banner or background video
Lead Capture“Subscribe” ButtonMultiple email capture options which integrate with your CRM
“Up Next” BehaviorAutoplays the next video in the playlist or a random video, often from another company, based on the user’s playback historyAutoplays the next video in the Channel, as defined by you
SEOVisible in Google search with a video snippet linking to the video on Visible in Google search with a video snippet, linking to the video on your website
LocationHas to live on, although individual videos can be embedded on your websiteCan be embedded on any page on your website
SortingAutomatically sorted by date or popularity, with the ability to feature specific playlists on the channel homepageFull control over the ordering and presentation of videos within the channel
Social CTAsComments, likes, sharesNo social elements, just the videos without distractions
CostFreeFrom $400 per month

Advantages of a YouTube Channel

  • Visibility in YouTube search and YouTube related videos
  • Free to use

Advantages of a Wistia Channel

  • Sends search traffic to pages on your website, rather than
  • Captures email addresses of viewers and integrates directly with your CRM system
  • Embeddable on your website
  • No ads or distractions

When should marketers use both?

It doesn’t need to be a case of either-or, as there is a role for both YouTube Channels and Wistia Channels in any advanced video strategy.

One of the most effective ways to use the two in combination is with YouTube Channels as an advertisement for a fuller experience on Wistia Channels. Check out our own YouTube Channel for an example of what that can look like.

Trailers and short snippets of longer videos can be hosted on YouTube, optimized for visibility in YouTube search, with a clear call to action to watch the full video on your website. With this approach, you can take advantage of the benefits YouTube offers for content discovery, as well as the benefits Wistia offers for acquisition, engagement, and conversion.

“Trailers and short snippets of longer videos can be hosted on YouTube, optimized for visibility in YouTube search, with a clear call to action to watch the full video on your website.”
Wistia Channels does a much better job of showing how cute Lenny is.

Just make sure you don’t put every video, in full, on YouTube. Doing so offers no incentive for your audience to ever visit your website or engage with your offering more deeply. Instead, it ties you to Google’s ecosystem perpetuity — a world where Google keeps your traffic, owns your subscribers, and controls their viewing experience — all for the explicit purpose of serving more ads.

At the end of the day, your audience deserves the best viewing experience possible. Let them lean-back and watch your videos in a distraction-free space Wistia Channels — it’s what it was made for.

Phil Nottingham


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