Amy Stubbs, Creative Director
Growing up, we only had three channels on our television—four, if we were lucky, and if we moved the coat hanger bunny ears into just the right position. The coolest kids were the ones who had a satellite dish. But we still only had one chance to catch the latest episode of our favourite television show, and if we missed it, we would just have to try and fill in the blanks.
It’s normal for students and young adults to forgo paying outrageous fees to have cable television, and it is polite Twitter etiquette to not discuss a television show without first issuing a spoiler alert. Viewing programs on television is no longer the norm; how we receive our entertainment and what we consider programming are starting to change.
The internet has killed television. And we’re okay with that.
When shows first began streaming on the internet, panicked networks cried copyright infringement, but creators have since adapted to the new way we choose to watch our programming, and it has allowed millions of new creators to blossom unrestrictedly on YouTube.
When Google bought YouTube for US$1.65 billion in 2006, everyone wondered why a company would invest so much in a website more likely to cost them money in legal fees than turn a profit.
When the deal was announced, Eric Schmidt, Google’s chief executive officer told the Associated Press “this is the next step in the evolution of the internet.”
Unsurprisingly, Google is smarter than us. Each month, over one billion individuals view content globally on YouTube. The website now has more American viewers than any cable network in the coveted 18 to 34 demographic, according to the Nielsen Co. Many YouTube content providers have earned six figure profits for their work. Some of the most popular channels have even made millions.
The definition of a channel has changed, and subscribing comes freely with the click of a button.
These creators have now become celebrities, with followings comparable to the actors and actresses from the most popular network and cable television programming. YouTube star Jenna Marbles has more than three million Twitter followers and over 11 million subscribers to her channel. Ryan Higa has 10.7 million subscribers on YouTube and nearly 1.2 million followers on Twitter. Kaley Cuoco of The Big Bang Theory fame has something just shy of 1.7 million Twitter followers. As the stars of AMC’s cult favourite Breaking Bad, possibly the most popular cable show ever, Bryan Cranston has just over one million fans on Twitter and his co-star Aaron Paul is pushing close to 1.5 million.
Festivals now honour these YouTube sensations, and pandemonium ensues when fans are given the chance to line up for hours to shake hands, take a picture, get an autograph, or just to spend mere seconds with their idols—idols who produce content from the comforts of their own home.
Not only does this cut down on production costs, but it also allows viewers to become so connected with the lives of these YouTubers that they feel as if they are actually friends or part of the family. YouTube’s favourite family, the SHAYTARDS, have had 1.4 million views on a video of the birth of their fifth child last month. In September, daily vlogger Charles Trippy of CTFxC underwent brain surgery, not only while awake, but also while documenting the whole uncensored procedure. Viewers follow these people as intensely as they did the plot of Breaking Bad, discussing the events of real lives after viewing. It’s like reality television, only actually real.
Companies and advertisers are recognizing the power of YouTube. Small and big businesses alike are paying to run the commercials in pre-roll, which allow the creators to profit from uploading their daily lives and thoughts to the internet. Not only that but more and more companies are offering brand deals to YouTubers.
Viral stars are now being approached by companies to test their products and promote them to their fan-base. Ford Motor Co. has given several YouTubers, including Grace Helbig of Daily Grace, Ford Fiestas for the year to drive and complete monthly missions in video form. The SHAYTARDS regularly receive brand endorsements, which they openly discuss, including recently: Hot Wheels, Windex and Kia. They make their own version of full production video advertisements in addition to talking about the products in their daily vlogs.
YouTube shows are evolving closer and closer to the “real thing.” With unlimited content popping up daily, all genres are covered.
For these stars, YouTube isn’t the stepping-stone to television but rather where they want to stay—and with the freedom and control over their own creative content, who can blame them?