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YouTubers Ride Streaming Services Toward Mainstream

Top digital celebrities including Grace Helbig, Cameron Dallas and Miranda Sings (aka Colleen Ballinger) continue to edge their way toward the linear, aka “old”, media still favored by the licensing community. These three and others are making the jump from social media platforms led by YouTube and Vine to longer-form programming on streaming services Netflix, Amazon and Hulu.

While licensees and retailers are still slow to embrace properties established in digital services but lacking exposure on traditional, linear TV outlets, this new wave of digital celebrities is making progress toward that goal, and in the process is building fan engagement that often tops that of more traditional stars.

  • In the past two weeks, Ballinger announced that her previously announced Miranda Sings show, Haters Back Off, will bow on Netflix worldwide on Oct. 14 with eight half-hour episodes. Ballinger also appeared on the cover of Variety in a story about digital starts leaping to TV.
  • Netflix will have an unscripted series following the life of Vine star Cameron Dallas as he plots his career path to the next level. There’s no release date yet for the show, but Dallas has also starred in movies The Outfield and Expelled, both distributed on iTunes.
  • Amazon on Sept. 23 will begin streaming Dirty 30, a movie about an out of control 30th birthday party, starring Helbig, Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart. The three starred in 2014’s Camp Takota, which is distributed on iTunes and other digital platforms.

These stars follow others including PewDiePie and Freddie Wong into series on streaming platforms. No. 1 YouTube star PewDiePie (aka Felix Kjellberg) anchors Scare PewDiePie, a reality-adventure series on YouTube Red, while YouTuber Wong has launched two series on Hulu, RocketJump: The Show and the upcoming Dimension 404.

Variety for the past two years has published surveys showing that YouTubers are just as popular as traditional celebrities. New data from Q Scores, which is the industry standard by which the media business has quantified the power of celebrities, published in Variety two weeks ago refutes that, however. Even the highest scoring YouTube stars measured by Q Scores can’t compare to traditional film, TV and music stars among respondents in terms of familiarity. But the level of fan engagement around influencers can be very strong.

Among teens, the highest Q Scores for digital talent went to a cappella group Pentatonix and comedian Ryan Higa, both with a positive influence score of 30. Among traditional stars, top positive scorers among teens ranged from Tom Hanks, with 46, to Beyonce’, with 32. Familiarity was a different matter, however: Pentatonix scored 24 on familiarity, and Higa 23, while Hanks pulled down a familiarity score of 74.


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