The jury is still out on how YouTube’s 100 original channels strategy will pan out, but here’s one early conclusion: animation seems to work quite well. Well enough that Nickelodeon and Cartoon Network may want to start paying attention.
Shut Up Cartoons, an animation channel launched by perennial YouTube chart leader Smosh, has attracted over 477,000 subscribers since going live on April 30. Even more impressive, Shut Up’s four new series (the first of 18 planned originals) generated over 20 million views as of Friday, June 8.
Among the shows attracting strong early viewership are Krogzilla (about a monster who is looking for an office job) and Zombies vs. Ninjas (a stop motion show about zombies fighting ninjas.) In the irreverent fare aimed squarely at the 12 to 24 year old demographic, Zombies sometimes generate close to 700,000 views an episode.
Of course, it helps that Shut Up has one of the more enviable promotional platforms in the YouTube world. Smosh, which was acquired by Alloy Digital last year, is the third most subscribed-too YouTube channel. And its founders are expert in young-guy-oriented Web video humor.
"Smosh has a very strong brand. But we didn’t want to cannibalize our existing business,” explained Smosh president and Alloy Digital evp Barry Blumberg of the decision to launch an entirely new brand with Shut Up Cartoons. It helped that YouTube was offering seed money as well.
“We weren’t going to plunk down seven figures to create a brand,” said Blumberg, who previously ran Disney Television Animation.
No need, given YouTube’s interest in fostering new content creators. Plus, animation is a natural for the platform. “We’ve launched some channels because there were underserved audiences and others because there was an advertiser need. Animation is one of the areas that YouTube has a long history and a really high demand,” said Graham Bennett, YouTube’s strategic brand manager.
Interestingly, given Blumberg’s background (and sister company Alloy Entertainment’s background) the new Shut Up channel borrows from the TV world when it comes to scheduling tactics. New episodes of shows like Krogzilla appear at set times during the week, accumulating significant viewership as soon as they are posted, according to Blumberg. The hope is to eventually have a schedule of daily appointment-driven Web series.
“What we’ve found is that the audience wants to be treated with respect,” said Blumberg. “We want them to know when new episodes are available. And there’s a huge subscriber base.”
For example, besides Smosh's 4.8 million subscribers and 1.5 billion video views, companies like Mondo Media have amassed impressive YouTube fan bases. “There’s strength in numbers,” Bennett added. "In this case, [Shut Up's creators] can use that Smosh audience very smartly. And they have that experience on how YouTube works and how audiences are changing. It’s a much more highly involved, engaging and responsive audience and they understand that.”