“Everyone knows that traditional TV viewing for teens and tweens is dead. Not dying, dead.”
Talk about a bombshell. Brian Robbins, founder and CEO of AwesomenessTV dropped this killer line in front of an audience of TV professionals at MIPTV in Cannes. Channels like MTV and Nickeleodon, Robbins says, have lost these segments of the audience that traditionally kept them afloat. Teens and tweens are part of Gen Z, who, according to Robbins’ slides, ranges from age 2 to 19, and in the US includes 72 million members with 44 billion dollars to spend.
“Content consumption has moved to Youtube, online and mobile and most companies and brands are shifting their strategies” to try and keep up, he said, before telling he thought his career was over when he was asked to meet with a Youtuber named Fred. He had never heard of him. But a quick discussion with his son and his son’s friends made him realise the relevance of this Youtube star.
“When I asked one of them if he wanted to see a Fred movie, he immediately answered ‘Tonight?’.”
It was the catalyst for the success of AwesomenessTV, Robbins says, and 3 years later, his company claims the top spot as a destination on Youtube for teens.
“We start by engaging with our audience natively on digital before even considering going to linear television,” the CEO says. And the audience became producers too, with over 90,000 content creators in the company’s network, creators who accumulate in total 100 million subscribers and reach 1 billion views a month. Outside of the Internet, the company “owns teens”, and offers products in music, clothing, TV content and even feature films.
“Teens are changing everything, and what they are doing is becoming the norm for everyone,” Robbins says. Understanding and catering to this audience, he adds, is being at the front line of trends and at the front seat of innovation. He claims that “Generation Z is the most influential generation ever, way way more than Millenials.”
On the stage with Robbins is Youtube star Meg Deangelis, an Awesomeness talent who gained more than 2 million followers since joining the company’s network in February 2014. Now 19, she started at 14 by posting short clips of her cheerleading stunts. She is a heavyweight on other social media platforms as well. The selfie she took on stage and posted on Instagram a little after received over 58,000 likes.
Now, with over 2.3 million followers, Robbins reveals to the audience and his star – with a hint of almost paternal pride in his voice – that her Youtube channel is growing faster than Beyoncé‘s and Justin Bieber’s, and on par with One Direction’s.
Hearing the news, Deangelis, who also starred in a original series produced by AwesomenessTV, is, like, totally freaking out right now.
A global expansion
“What does the Gen Z audience do?” asks Brett Bouttier, president of Awesomeness. “They watch and share videos constantly. What don’t they do? Schedule their lives around that programming. That does not mean they won’t tune in, if you can catch them.”
The company that figured its audience out is pouring some of its magic back into the struggling TV channels. On Nickelodeon, a series of half-hour episode of repackaged video clips that had already premiered on Awesomeness’ Youtube channels drew up to 2 million viewers to their TV channel. They also created a show on Netflix, advertised for it on their Youtube channels “and now it’s one of our paid video platform’s biggest hit for kids and teens,” Bouttier says.
The company will also extend aggressively into the UK, Spain, Germany, Brazil and France to capture the global Gen Z, provide local Youtube stars with the same network and produce TV series and feature films. “And we are coming for the rest of you,” announces, Kelly Day, the company’s Chief Digital Officer, only half-joking, to the audience.
The next step for the company is conquering the phone, or “media hub that happens to make calls” as Bouttier renames it. They are partnering with Verizon, the number one mobile provider in the US, to create 200 hours of original video content. For the president of AwesomenessTV, this deal proves their point, that seeing Verizon investing so much on Gen Z really makes them the most influential generation ever. “This is the new TV,” he says.