Last year I started to write a blog post about how Showrunners may start to distribute directly to consumers without a television network or entertainment studio intermediary. I never published it because things were changing so fast and I was waiting to see if some of my OTT predictions, such as Apple opening up an app store for channel creation on AppleTV, would actually happen.
The democratization of media continues at a blinding pace. Traditional network shows are finding new audiences online through current show clips or archived re-runs. Among younger audiences, statistics show that digital clips actually have higher engagement with young audiences vs. the actual live, broadcast. Early adopter network stars like Jerry Seinfeld continue to experiment with content outside of a larger network. Ellen DeGenere’s digital destination EllenTube, is a home for her own video content as well as curated user videos that may be included on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Even our favorite weather man Al Roker is getting in on the act through Roker Labs and Roker Live along with platforms like Meerkat, Periscope, Vine & Snapchat.
Of course it is easy for celebrity with established shows to branch out, digital direct, to gain an audience. For show runners unknown to audiences it may prove much harder especially as they look to launch new properties. That being said many showrunners have reached star status, enabling them to pull in an audience as they look to experiment with new formats. Emmy winning OTT/digital networks like HBO & Netflix, having re-energized at-home, cinematic narrative as they attract the best showrunners not wanting to be bound by traditional formats or pilot season.
If flexibility and creative freedom are key, why would creators & showrunners not start to go to their audiences directly ?
If we are to take a cue from millennial and digital creators coming up through the ranks, this would prove that in fact they already have. Outside of YouTube, PewDiePie, Shay Carl, Stampy Cat and several other creators are getting stand-alone apps showcasing their video offerings on the web and on mobile. For PewDiePie, with his YouTube channel now at 40+ million subscribers, this was an obvious choice. Maker, acquired by Disney, has 55,000 channels in its network, and has rolled out dozens of their stand-alone spotlight apps with a new app-builder system that will ease the creation process for each creator. Ads, subscriptions and other monetization are wrapped around the apps. For a lean-back, long format narrative TV experience, app stores newly created by Apple and others like Roku, Xbox, Amazon and Google will enable any showrunner to create a channel for their content that is as easily searchable as any one of the major networks.
Freddie Wong, one of the most successful and early showrunner pioneers to go digital-direct continues to inspire creators via his production company RocketJump led by their hit show Video Game High School, now in its 3rd season.
Digital creators, along with the democratization of technology, have pioneered how talent is found. Many have reached the critical mass needed for traditional networks to take notice and reach out to strike deals with them. No doubt the traditional biz will learn from them too. In a business under constant scrutiny for lack of diversity, digital pioneers are a role model and prove that everyone can get in on the act, go direct to audiences and be successful at it.
Check out Forbes’ The World’s Top-Earning YouTube Stars 2015