AwesomenessTV — a YouTube channel with its own series, sketches and musicians — is making the jump to television tonight: The formerly online-only channel will premiere a half-hour comedy on Nickelodeon that includes fresh material stirred in with YouTube clips. Daniela Monet (Victorious) will host the show, also called AwesomenessTV, and continue to work for the online outlet, which has garnered more than 1 billion YouTube views.
AwesomenessTV CEO Brian Robbins told Variety that the YouTube channel will continue to be the first priority, but said they’re looking forward to finding more viewers. “The long-term goal is to build audience and own eyeballs over time,” he said. “It might take a little time for ad revenue to catch up. But an eyeball is an eyeball is an eyeball — no matter where it is, on TV or online.”
Nickelodeon is not new to the concept of adopting content from the web: The channel worked with Lucas Cruikshank (better known as Fred on YouTube) on three films. Cartoon Network picked up Annoying Orange, a YouTube channel with more than a billion hits, and created The High Fructose Adventures of Annoying Orange. Those adorable AT&T ads featuring roundtable chats with kids started out as the brainchild of a YouTube star: Beck Bennett was an aspiring actor and comedian with thousands of hits on the video site when he got his big break in the spots.
So is YouTube just a springboard for bigger and better things?
YouTube star Jessica Frech, who had a viral hit with her “People of Walmart” video, loves the freedom and creative control of YouTube. And her brand works: In 2011, Hyundai sent her an email asking if she’d like to shoot a commercial for the holiday season. “For me, when I got that call, it was like, ‘Okay, this is working — somebody is watching,’” Frech recalled.
She said it wasn’t ever the plan to end up on TV. However, once she had the opportunity, she wanted to go all out. “When I came to them with ideas, they were like, ‘Tone it down. We want you to do what you do on YouTube, not big Hollywood stuff.’ And I was like, ‘We’ve got the budget, let’s go big!’ They even wanted to film it in our house, and since my house wasn’t big enough to fit the production crew in, they rebuilt my house in the studio that we used. They rebuilt the room that we shoot our stuff in, and it looked exactly like my house.”
Frech said many of the people she has worked with who have huge YouTube followings don’t expect much more than that.
“Acting-wise, a lot of the people that I’ve worked with and I’ve met had no intentions of doing anything on commercial TV; they just had fun making a stupid video one day that went viral and then had to continue feeding that need because people want it and they want more.”
And some viral-video stars just get lucky — and they’re showing up on your computer, your TV and everywhere in between.