YouTube: Broadcast Yourself.
…because over 100 million subscribers can’t be wrong. Right? In 2012, AwesomenessTV founder Brian Robbins shifted gears on his directing and producing career to form a production company for short form YouTube content aimed at teens and tweens. Just over a year later, the channel’s combination of in-house material and recruited new media stars had earned a billion views and a big money offer from Dreamworks Animation. Although quick hit viral videos made the company’s brand, AwesomenessTV has also expanded into feature length films distributed online and audience driven trans-media content.
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Founder Brian Robbins had worked in the world of “old media” as an actor, producer and director – the films he made include the dubious Eddie Murphy “classic” "Norbit" (though, perhaps as a sign of Robbins’s market sensibilities, the comedy universally reviled by critics and internet comment boards actually made money). However, after seeing what the kids, or more specifically his own teenage sons, were into, he decided to change course and go all in on a production company for YouTube content. As always is the case with overnight successes, Robbins and AwesomenessTV suffered from a serious case of “right place at the right time” syndrome – his company formed at the same time YouTube decided to invest in content creators. But even if AwesomenessTV entered the tube-o-sphere at its peak cultural moment, Robbins deserves credit for his strategy of going after rising YouTube celebrities. The combination of niche original videos and new media star power struck a chord. He also has been able to apply his background in film and television to tap into the potential of short form content. AwesomenessTV also found a workaround for the issue many YouTube channels still can’t deal with: monetization. Old media titan Jeffrey Katzenberg also agrees with Robbins that the times they are a-changing, as his Dreamworks Animation purchased the company in a deal that potentially could end upwards of $100 million.
If over a hundred million subscribers who generate a billion views per month may sound like mind numbing statistics, that’s because they are. The ability to generate an audience of this size has elevated AwesomenessTV to the same status as some of the other new media behemoths like Maker Studios, Fullscreen and Machinima; however, what’s perhaps more impressive about the rise of AwesomenessTV is how little time it took to accomplish this (basically less than a year). Part of this stems from AwesomenessTV’s ability to identify “established” talent on YouTube. The company has also experimented with new versions of short-form content, such as the serialized teen mystery drama “The Runaways” or the musical “Side Effects” – yeah, yeah, these shows owe a lot to actual television shows like “Pretty Little Liars” and “Glee.” The company has also partnered with existing brands like Seventeen Magazine, Netflix and Nickelodeon to create new content outside of the YouTube platform.
While AwesomenessTV tapped into the web’s potential for short form content, the company has shown a willingness to expand. Given Robbins’s experience with feature films, it’s perhaps no surprise that YouTube decided to collaborate with his company to produce and digitally distribute full-length movies. AwesomenessTV has also produced a self-named sketch comedy series for Nickelodeon, a "Richie Rich" series for Netflix and a horror series for Hulu. The company was also the first to partner with the messaging app Kik, viewing the service as a trans-media platform for its series and experimenting with ideas like alternative endings based on audience feedback. While short form content still dominates the web, the company’s willingness to look beyond the fast comedy of most viral video services is indicative of the “try anything that works” spirit of new media.
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