In Depth: Why Do YouTuber TV Shows Always Fail?
15 January 2016, 17:24
With the news breaking that Miranda Sings is getting her own Netflix show, it seemed like a great time to talk about YouTubers moving away from YouTube into other mediums. In recent years, as YouTubers have grown in fame, success and sheer power, there have been multiple attempts by powerful parties within the traditional media to try and capitalise on their success by taking these newly-formed celebs and transplanting them from the internet to TV. In this article, we'll be asking why these attempts have, almost without exception, always been colossal failures:
What Do You Mean They Were Failures?!
When I call a show a 'failure', I'm referring to the fact that it will have not done well critically or commerically. Alternatively, I may be simply referrign to the fact that it got cancelled almost immediately. Take, for example the recent Grace Helbig Show, a show starring Grace Helbig, which featured popular YouTuber Grace Helbig. When the show was announced everyone (us included) was super hyped that this one-of-a-kind ball of comic energy was finally going to be seen by a wider audience.
But the numbers did not reflect the enthusiasm. The Grace Helbig Show spiked at 262,000 viewers for its second episode before dropping right down 182,000 viewers for its third installment. Overall, the numbers were notably bad. This didn't lead to the network explicitly cancelling the show, but there has been no word for a while about season 2. Furthermore, E, in a move that it is, to this day beyond perplexing for some reason decided to post this on their official twitter account:
Remember that time we gave a YouTube star their own TV show? ☕️ pic.twitter.com/XLjv9j5XUQ— E! News (@enews) August 17, 2015
The tweet was in response to backlash they were receiving over their attitude towards online stars in their publications, but also - bafflingly - was seemingly intended shade on Grace and the performance of her show. Also, that meme makes no sense. At all. Hank Green summed it all up:
@eonline This is a very very weird decision. Also, you are not using this meme properly.— Hank Green (@hankgreen) August 18, 2015
While an officially cancellation has not appeared, that attitude coupled with Grace's not-so-great ratings mean that even if the show is picked up for another season it will have a troubled life. Grace isn't the only example though: the EpicMealTime Crew have tried various TV formats, with not much success and Shane Dawson had a TV show bought by a network back in 2013 that we haven't heard about since.
Why YouTuber TV Should Work
In theory, a YouTuber TV show should be a runaway success - in theory that is.
The will work if you follow the idea that success can be moved around - the idea that if you move a popular person from one medium to another, or from one format to another, then their banked fame will still be valid and they'll be able to cash it in elsewhere. With stars like, say, Charlie McDonnell, TV Producers are looking at a person that is arriving at their door with a built-in audience of exceedingly loyal fans, that number in the millions. Surely that's an obvious and instant win?
Why They Don't
Ya, no. Not at all. You see, fame and success are not solid. You cannot build up success in one place and then put in a success bank and move it somewhere else. Success and audience are dependent on many separate parts, like familiarity and consistency. Fame isn't gold - it's the stock market*. If you're famous for vlogging, you can't just go and become famous for tennis. You can't take the word 'famous' from your job title and just stick in front of another job title.
*(I think, anyway. I don't know anything about the stock market. If I did I'd be out doing stocks and being rich instead of here writing articles and being rich.)
If you're famous for a certain thing, there's a good chance people don't really want to see you do other, unrelated things. That's why bands are often mocked for playing new music at their concerts, because the audience just wants to hear their hits. In this age of personality-driven content, it can be easier because viewers tune in to see the person, not necessarily anything in particular that the person does. However, this personality-driven content only works if they don't commit the sin of:
Forcing The YouTuber To Abandon Their Format
Grace Helbig's show had promise when it was announced because it appeared to play to her strengths - there seemed to be room for improvisation, there were YouTube-style elements (like challenges) and she featured YouTubers as guests, instead of just having TV people.
When the show aired, it definitely wasn't bad - it was good! But it wasn't the same as her online content. It felt less natural, less loose. This was probably because it was a TV show and was therefore.... less natural and less loose. Jokes and bits sometimes felt forced or scripted and overall there was a sense that this was similar to her online content but not quite as a good. If there's a better version of a TV show already online, why would you watch the TV show?
YouTubers Don't Have The Skills Required
This isn't a swipe at YouTubers, it's just a recognition of the facts. When you want your windows cleaned, you hire a window washer - you don't hire a demolitions expert, or a Jedi or one of those weird human statue people that aren't even that impressive:
The point is that you have to get the right person for a job. When YouTubers have been moved over to TV, that's exactly what has happened. They've been moved to TV. They haven't had their skills and strengths moved, they themselves have just been plucked up by their collar and plopped down into the middle of a brand new and entirely different world. As an example, we can go back to Charlie McDonnell. The BBC recognised that he was blowing up online, so they decided to put him in a TV show. In this show, Charlie was required to work to scripts produced by others. Considering the fact that he made his name by expressing his own voice in his own way, it is ridiculous that they didn't foresee that he would neither enjoy this nor be good at it.
How They Can Work
Just because there have been troubled examples in the past, that doesn't mean that it's impossible for YouTubers to find success on TV, it just has to be done in the right way. Broad City is an example of a show that started online and successfully made it to TV - and that's almost certainly due to the fact that the original show was in such a form that it could be moved over. By contrast, someone like say, Alfie Deyes couldn't just get 'a show' and have it work, it would have to be something that is tailored to his skills (vlogging).
Ultimately it may be better for stars to just stay online. Being an 'internet celebrity' is really no less 'legit' than being a TV celebrity these days - especially as YouTubers are now winning all kinds of awards. If YouTubers are to succeed, it needs to be on their terms - not the terms of some network. That's why the Dan and Phil Radio 1 show was such a runaway success, because it allowed them the creative freedom to do what they do best. Looking forward, we hope that Miranda's Netflix show gives her that same freedom - and we hope that Grace Helbig finally gets the proper outlet for her talent that she deserves.