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How I made ‘Pizza Rat’ into a cash cow that changed my life

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Matt Little (right) the creator of the viral Pizza Rat video on YouTube, said licensing agreements on the viral sensation have helped him with a secondary income.
Matt Little (right) the creator of the Pizza Rat video on YouTube, said licensing agreements on the viral sensation have helped him with a secondary income. YouTiube / Matt Little

Pizza Rat is the gift that keeps on giving. 

A video of a rat dragging a slice of pizza down a flight of subway stairs nearly broke the internet when Matt Little posted the 14-second clip to YouTube in 2015. Seven years later and the viral video has more than 12 million views and still resonates for some who see it as a metaphor for gritty New Yorkers.

Little, 41, shared how the rodent became a viral celebrity — and a moneymaker — in an interview with Insider.

It all started around 1 a.m. when Little told the outlet he was walking to catch a Brooklyn-bound L train after a night out. That’s when he said he caught the eyebrow-raising sight of a rat hauling a slice of pizza. 

“I knew I had to capture this or my friends wouldn’t believe me,” Little, who now lives in Los Angeles, told Insider of the impetus behind the viral video.

Pizza rat
Seven years later, Pizza Rat is still resonating with fans. The 14-second video has garnered more than 12 million views on YouTube.
YouTiube / Matt Little

After Little initially shared the video on Instagram and Facebook, his roommate urged him to post the clip on YouTube. Then, Little, a creative director who was performing stand-up comedy at the time, shared the clip with two media outlets, Gawker and Gothamist. They bit, and a flood of media inquiries soon followed. 

The subway rat became Little’s unlikely cash cow. He told Insider he began fielding inquiries from licensing agencies dying to work with Pizza Rat and secured third-party usage rights and payment.

“If you’ve seen Pizza Rat on late-night TV, ads, or events it’s likely been legally signed off by a licensing firm and me,” Little told the outlet. 

Now, he said the video, with nearly 50,000 likes and more than 5,600 comments, is a secondary income for him. Little told Insider he hopes it’ll help him save for a down payment on a house.

“That way, I can say that a rat paid for my home,” he quipped.

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