“There isn’t an original thought left in the world, it’s all on YouTube!”.
This line was in an article I read in August. Okay, it was about sewing for beginners BUT damn, it feels true for us in the format world too and it keeps going around my head. Can I prove this point with examples? No, because that is what gets me into defamation lawsuits that FRAPA will not protect me from!
This MIPCOM we talked about a COVID creative void – that, contra to chatter, the lockdown time was not used wisely in a creative renaissance at all and we actually saw the rise of reboots, recommissions and quite frankly dirge television. So as we try and get our creative brains collectively in gear to create some new formats, can it be that if you search hard enough on YouTube, everything already exists?
Tip of the iceberg
So what does YouTube have to offer? Don’t confuse the content we are talking about – this is not the YouTube Originals that were shut down in January, this is the user/influencer generated content, that is often sponsor funded, and that we as parents detest:
- Dating – Versus1 sees a mother select her son’s date by reducing 20 women down in various rounds, The Cut will see The Button decide who gets rejected and who goes on a date and we have a dressed version of Naked Attraction using Halloween costumes – if you have the imagination to search, the possibilities are endless – depending on the age filter you set your account to!
- Hobbyist fun – Lego is prolific in various forms including build in the bag and epic builds, miniatures – building small functional replicas of everyday items, construction of full sized buildings out of unusual or natural materials… and the list goes on. Everything we have seen launched as primetime is here in short-form, just less formatted and more personality driven.
- Family entertainment – Dude Perfect, How Ridiculous, Mr Beast – combined they have close to 170 million subscribers and offer every iteration of trick shot, extreme tag, mystery waterslide, hit the target, last to leave (every conceivable object) and every balloon related challenge. And this is tip of the iceberg stuff…
- Adventure reality – Scandinavian adventure reality, preparing people for their own epic personal challenges, bucket lists of the most extreme activities in beautiful locations, surviving plane crashes, Hindi-language bush survival, adventures taking nature newbies on their first trips into the wild…
In the public domain already, there is concern this content is not protected, but as with all IP it will depend on legal precedence in the country of jurisdiction. Owned by the content creators, it is possible to collaborate/option the content to further develop and/or acquire. The notion that content only becomes a format when it has been broadcast on television is just not true, some of this YouTube content is better formatted than intended formats. A Gen-Z-friendly friend offered some wisdom to get ahead with online content: “This content is cyclical – it starts on TikTok in its most original form, then it moves to YouTube variations a few weeks later and then it goes to a streamer years later.”
If YouTube had clearer viewing figures we could compare their viewership (measured by 30 second intentional viewing) to that of say Netflix’s previous two-minute metric and question why more YouTube-esque content is not making the transition from one global platform to another – especially if 10 million views on Netflix can get you in the Global Top 10 (my new favourite website is www.top10.netflix.com). It seems like strategy is required when moving talent across – influencers Dude Perfect (and their 58 million subscribers) had a TV series commissioned for CMT/Nickelodeon in 2016, but it only did one series and you have to believe it is because the medium has to fit the audience. YouTube is built on an international model, so in theory the streamers are the only players who can truly utilise the star power.
Some of the larger influencers are opposed to making the transfer from short-form YouTube content to streamers/broadcasters due to the impact on their creative freedom but it is also due to their pockets – they can make $29.5mi in a year like Ryan’s World does without having to share IP, back-end or anything else! They make every decision and still reach audiences of millions. It is all well and good that we recognise IP we like on YouTube, but we have to find a way to strategically work with the creatives to give them something they don’t already have.
YouTube is the single most popular platform for the 15-35-yer-old demographic, leaning slightly male. And viewers are not rushing there to consume scripted, no, comedy is the most popular genre on the site. So YouTube basically becomes the home of unscripted too. So you can understand why I am questioning why we are not engaging with user generated content more? We have a love for celebrities on screen but the D-listers we see most of certainly don’t come with a built in fan base of 58 million.
So let’s think on that shall we, as we learn to sew better and as the recession demands we become more strategic with our content.
Siobhan Crawford is co-founder at Glow Media and has worked in the format business for almost two decades at firms including DRG, Zodiak, Banijay and Primitives