The online ad world is practically begging for media companies to market Web shows like the TV and movie businesses do. At the same time, the industry is also craving a breakout hit comparable to the biggest shows on TV.
Collective Digital Studios believes it might be able to check both boxes with the second season of Video Game High School 2.
The live-action scripted show is the brainchild of YouTube star Freddie Wong of the channel Freddiew (which claims nearly 6 million subscribers) and partner Matt Arnold (officially it's being co-produced by Collective Digital Studio and Rocket Jump Studios). The nine-episode season of VGHS generated 55 million views, with episode one alone exceeding 8 million views on YouTube.
Still, the team behind the show thinks Season 2 can be bigger and better, maybe even a “game changer” said Alex Angeledes, chief revenue officer at Collective Digital Studio.
"These guys have a path to connecting with an audience that, like, no one in the traditional entertainment industry has or has even really tried to develop," said Hank Green, who oversees both YouTube network Vlogbrothers as well as the fan conference VidCon. "I do think it's a big deal. If I could invest my money in any content creator online, it would be them."
Hopes are high at YouTube as well. “Freddie has emerged as a true innovator in online video and with Video Game High School has found a pitch-perfect formula for a next-generation business model," said Alex Carloss, global head of entertainment partnerships, YouTube.
“We think we are building a franchise,” added Reza Izad, CEO, Collective Digital Studio. “And you need to market a franchise. The intent here is to build this into a major Web video event."
Thus, they are pulling out all the stops, with an elaborate promotional effort that mixes traditional channels and cutting-edge digital tactics aimed at building audience interest leading up the show’s July 25 premiere.
For example, VGHS2 is running cinema ads, as well as hosting a red carpet party this week at the YouTube studios in L.A. where the show was shot. Collective Digital Studio is running ads across the Millennial Multichannel Network and YouTube and has commissioned a mobile game. Wong, Arnold and the others involved in the show will sit for an Ask Me Anything on Reddit. The distributor has also tapped LootCrate, a mail order company that will send out VGHS2 gear to a targeted list of geek/gaming influencers.
Per Izad, Collective Digital Studio is also dialing up distribution for VGHS2. Besides YouTube, the first season was available on RocketJump.com—a souped up Web video destination managed by Wong, Arnold and other digital creators, as well as Netflix. Expect more deals to be announced in the next few months.
Speaking of deals, Collective Digital Studio has just signed on Taco Bell as one of a handful of exclusive advertisers for Season 2. The other big brand is the Dodge Dart, which is being featured extensively in the show.
According to Wong, the buzz among fans is larger than that first season. Season 2 was partially funded via Kickstarter, and the number of donators doubled versus Season 1. Still, he’s hesitant to put a number on this season.
“We hope that it grows,” said Wong. “That’s one reason we made longer and fewer episodes, and why we try other platforms like Netflix. But it’s poisonous to try and chase views. That’s dumbest thing ever. What can you possibly do to beat a Korean man dancing like a horse? Looking at our show on a total audience basis is much more interesting.”