Today in Things That Are Not Made Up, famous Internet cat Lil Bub will host a talk show anchoring a new Discovery Communications digital venture called Animalist, created and developed by the company's video studio Revision3. The adorably disabled quadruped will host interview segments, conduct field reports and probably eat yogurt in a cute way or something.
You'll get to see it all at Animalist.com starting Oct. 3, when the first crop of shows—Lil Bub, Petsami and Big Cat Rescue, along with a dozen others—hit the Web. It's nothing if not ambitious. The site is shooting for 10 million views a month at launch, with 16 million a month by year's end.
Revision3, a subsidiary of Discovery since last year, created a science-themed Web channel called Test Tube. Just as Test Tube was loosely tied to the Discovery Channel and Science, Animalist will repurpose some Animal Planet content to boost its originals. The company hasn't had to create a writing staff from scratch for the Animalist crew, though. "When we first got talking to Lil Bub's owner Mike [Bridavsky], I said to my team, 'Wow, this guy's really creative!'" recalled Ryan Vance, svp of programming and development for Revision3. "And my team was like, "Yeah, dude, he's the reason Lil Bub is famous. The cat's not doing that.'"
Jim Louderback, CEO of Revision3 and Discovery Digital Networks, said that the new platform would explore material beyond This Cat Is So Cute You Guys. "We'll be doing reviews of pet products. People spend billions of dollars on everything from hamster balls to the pet flowbee. Nobody's ever done a comparative review of dog beds. Why not?" Louderback said. He added that Animalist would take an animal's perspective from time to time. "We tend to anthropomorphize animals," he said. "When animals look at us, they're thinking, 'Are you feeding me, or are you food?' Our goal is to get into that a little more."
Part of the project, Louderback explained, will be to distinguish Animalist's content from the rest of the Web universe's cat videos. "We want to see if we can create properties that have staying power beyond that first moment of 'Oh, isn't that cute' or 'Isn't that funny.'" A good example of that is Big Cat Rescue, about a nonprofit Vance said "is trying to make it so they don't exist anymore." The group rescues and places lions, tigers, bobcats and other animals that end up in the wrong hands—usually those of an unscrupulous exotic pet collector.
Animalist will offer "everything from your standard dynamic ads to full-on, baked-in integrations" to clients, Louderback said. "We can have individual elements of a show that are created in partnership with advertisers."
There may be other YouTube-famous names in the works. "We're talking to other celebrity cats, we're talking to celebrity dogs," said Vance. He paused. "We're also talking to human beings."