A couple days ago I twitted the fact that HBO just ordered a pilot for Insecure, a TV show created by YouTube star Issa Rae. The transition of celebrities of the digital space to television is becoming a trend, and while I reported some main facts on the infographic above, after some time spent in research, I still wasn’t able to find out who is the first YouTube celebrity that appeared on TV… Any idea?

So, why are YouTube stars moving to a “bigger” screen?

  • TO LEVERAGE THE SUBSCRIBERS BASE – This is the case of youtubers with a smaller following, such as Whitney Thore or Jack Vale, who are using their web presence as a entry pass to the TV;  I’m not sure that the same motive is true for PewDiePie or Shane Dawson, who are making disproportionate amounts of money on the web… I found this chart a while ago on Variety.YouTube-1


  •  TO INCREASE AWARENESS – You tubers still not perceived as professional, and TV can be a way to get prestige and reach not a broader audience but instead more mainstream awareness!
  • TO PRODUCE MORE SOPHISTICATED SERIES – maybe. I actually don’t know, this is what the L.A. Times says, as “the financial resources in the television industry can afford youtubers longer and higher quality content”. Relatable, if we’re talking of web series, I mean, check out Riley Rewind on Netflix to see what you can do for the web, but what about vloggers, prankers and vine celebs?
  • TO DIVERSIFY – a main point that some YouTube stars raise is the dependence from a constant presence on the web. Their work becomes 24/7, the relationship with their fan base needs much more time and awareness that the one of Hollywood stars. Getting to TV and the big screen (SMOSH being the new phenomenon, with Lionsgate involved in the production of “The SMOSH Movie“) is the path to emancipate from the web and get into a world in flesh and bones.. Actually my favorite examples are Ray William Johnson and The Fine Brothers, ultra-popular vloggers, hilarious creators, voracious minds, and now successful entrepreneurs.

Actors with a solid web presence can leverage it as an increasingly valuable asset, especially for minor productions.One thing is sure, Hollywood is in love with YouTube.Last year DreamWorks paid $33M for AwesomenessTV, Warner Bros. $18M in Machinima, while Disney bought Maker Studios for $500M. The reasons of this huge appetite are simple..

Youtube channels reach a bigger audience, offer richer analytics and target a younger demographic that is rapidly leaving the TV space.

The easiest transition in most cases is from vlogger to host. This is what many youtube stars did on their own, Jenna Marbles being one of those, and it’s what Disney is trying to serialize, bringing the Makers to the Disney Channel.

I predict that this phenomenon will grow in the future, given the increasing importance of extrapolating data from the audience. And the web is king when it comes to analytics.


3 thoughts on “YouTube stars go syndicated

  1. Youtube, and Internet in general, is a real blessing for people who wants to go into the entertainment system without money or support. However, it is not as easy as it sounds to have succes on the platform and request talent and work.


  2. I’ve worked closely with MCN’s in the past and my impression of this issue is that it’s not so much about why YouTuber’s are moving to traditional platforms but why TV/Studios are capitalizing on YouTube. Networks and studios are no fools – audience habits are shifting quickly and they’re loosing younger viewers to other platforms. YouTube talent comes with a pre-attached audience, pre-tested content and fully fleshed out character making it a relatively safe bet. We’re seeing all the major MCN’s be acquired by media companies who are using them to expand their digital reach as much as to incubate talent. What Disney has done with Maker is the biggest example of this. They’ve always dominated children but once kids became teen they lost them to “cooler” programming. Maker is a brilliant solution for them and such a great fit seeing that Disney is a company with an Empire building approach. Maker is already selling content produced in-house with their talent to TV and Film and a couple of other MCN’s are gearing up to do the same.

    For the talent it seems pretty straight forward – YouTube is their mother platform, not their content, and the key to sustainability is building a brand and expanding to different platforms is a great deal for them (if done right). I absolutely agree with you on the perception that YouTuber’s aren’t real professionals, especially in the advertising world, but it’s changing – YouTube itself has been investing heavily on marketing a professional image to top talent.


    • Natalia thanks for the comment, the article took mainly the perspective of the Youtube stars but I totally agree that studios are using these talents to expand their reach. The tendency is to give increasing value to the presence of an already built fan base, at the same time though moving a Youtubber to a different media proved to be a flop in many cases, as probably different media have different audiences and the 13 yo kid is not watching TV at 10pm, and different media carry different expectations in terms of content. I do not agree on the fact that Youtube is merely a platform. Youtube is both, it is a distribution platform and it is a language. The transition is risky, an as in any other business, the expansion of a brand requires it to be adaptable to the new market.


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