Helbig, the former YouTube face of website MyDamnChannel who now hosts her own Youtube channel It’s Grace, announced the venture with production company Astronauts Wanted at Vidcon today in Anaheim during “Industry Day” of the giant fan festival. The show, #HeyUSA, will launch July 1 and will be executive produced by Billy Parks and Nick Shore of Astronauts Wanted, the online-media shingle of former MTV CEO Judy McGrath. The show has “a little bit of a traditional show” mentality in it, Parks said, but still with lots of the interactive elements that make YouTube productions so much more involving for young fans. During shooting through the summer, the two online stars will be featured about three times a week in behind-the-scenes video shorts as they visit fan-suggested sights in eight U.S. cities. The weekly shorts would typically run 2- to 5-minutes long, Parks said. Another friend and YouTube notable, Hannah Hart of My Drunk Kitchen, is also expected to appear. This fall, the site will post eight more -finished, longer episodes pulling together all the events in each city. “It’s dizzying if you don’t love the platform,” said Parks of the complicated two-way process of creating the show. “Here’s a great way to connect with an audience if you love the way this audience works. If you create varied platform-specific content, it gets less dizzying.”
That’s according to CEO Ynon Kreiz of Maker Studios, the online multi-channel network that Disney bought earlier this spring for $500 million (plus the chance to earn out $450 million more). “We did not want to sell the company to Disney initially,” said Kreiz during a “fireside chat” at today’s Vidcon conference and fan festival in Anaheim, Calif. “The conversation started out as a partnership. As the conversation evolved, it became very clear that there was a very strong fit between the companies. It became very clear that we belong to each other.”
Kreiz cautioned that it’s still early given that the deal only closed in March, but the plan is to connect the YouTube creators in Maker’s network (there are tens of thousands of them) with the big entertainment brands that Disney controls, including Star Wars, Marvel, Pixar, ESPN, ABC, Jimmy Kimmel and more. “What we did is bring Disney into the YouTube ecosystem, right through the front door,” Kreiz said. “The idea is to allow our creators to embrace the Disney franchises. This will provide access to our creators, our talent to be part of that ecosystem in working with Disney content.”
So now we know. After getting roasted by some competing studio heads (if not on Wall Street) earlier this year when he said movies are “not a growth business,” DreamWorks Animation CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg traveled south to Anaheim today to talk about online video, a business he does see growing into the next big entertainment business platform. Katzenberg sat down onstage with Hank Green, himself a prominent video blogger with brother John Green, author of The Fault in Our Stars. The brothers are co-founders of Vidcon, the massive industry confab and fan festival filling the Anaheim Convention Center the next three days. Katzenberg used the friendly audience of video creators, distributors and others in the business to talk about why online video, particularly on YouTube, is such a promising creation and distribution platform for a new generation of talent outside traditional Hollywood.
“I think the opportunities ahead are so immense,” Katzenberg said. “This platform is in its infancy. Monetizing that is still a struggle. What we will see in a very short period of time, that will all start to migrate up to the top of the pyramid. I believe in five years, 95 percent of the value will come from the top 5 percent” of video creators.