For the past couple years, several media companies have snatched up many of YouTube’s most popular personalities to create content for their own linear and/or digital properties in an effort to attract their rabid millennial and Generation Z fans to their own platforms. However, only a fraction of those YouTube stars have been able to successfully transition to TV.
One of them is Olan Rogers, the creator of TBS’ upcoming animated sci-fi comedy Final Space—executive produced by Conan O’Brien—which will premiere Monday, Feb. 26, as part of a new animation block with American Dad! The filmmaker and comedian’s YouTube channel has almost a million subscribers.
The YouTube-to-TV transition is hard for many of his peers, “because the YouTubers can’t get away from the ‘You,’” Rogers said at the Television Critics Association’s winter press tour. “They have a hard time collaborating.”
Not Rogers, however, who said he has partnered with others his whole life on projects, and therefore had no difficulty making Final Space, about a man working off his prison sentence in space who befriends Mooncake, an alien creature with secret powers who is being pursued by the evil Lord Commander.
O’Brien, who is beginning his 25th year as a late-night host, said that Peak TV—and the digital boom—has made it harder than ever for worthy content to break through the clutter.
“There are opportunities with YouTube and the web, but it’s a double-edged sword, because the content is overwhelming,” said O’Brien. “There’s so much out there. And it’s very hard to find something worth your time.” He referred to a favorite quote of his: “The good is always going to be rare.”
Rogers, however, “is a rare find in a YouTube world where there’s million of people creating things in their basements,” said O’Brien, calling the creator “a good, authentic voice that can grow and mature.”
He already has the stamp of approval from O’Brien’s 12-year-old son, who watched the first three episodes of Final Space “and likes it more than anything I’ve ever done in my career,” said the talk show host.
“The greatest thing about the era we’re in right now is experimentation,” said O’Brien, who has been doing a lot of that himself. For the past several years, he has recorded longer, serious interviews with authors and other interesting people, for a series called Serious Jibber-Jabber. O’Brien said he just posted the videos online, giving no thought to how one might monetize it. “This is the time to experiment,” he said.
The animated Final Space is a bit of a homecoming for O’Brien, who once was a writer on The Simpsons. He recalled that it sometimes took more than a year for the jokes he wrote for a script to appear on air. That helped convince him to segue to late-night TV, because “I need the immediate hit of thinking something and people seeing it pretty quickly,” he said.