YouTube channels have three realistic outcomes when it comes to success on the video-sharing site. A channel can end up receiving premium partnership and YouTube support, or they can put out content week after week and still never truly gain mainstream popularity. Both results are risky at best, especially in light of the fact that YouTube is moving towards television-style content with major celebrities. The third option could arguably be what all YouTube content creators hope that their channel receives — a deal with network television.
YouTube channels getting picked up by network television began with Fred and quickly moved onto channels like RealAnnoyingOrange. Many channels that are adapted for television tend to have a young audience in mind, like recent Disney XD acquisition “Just Kidding.” Focused around family-friendly practical jokes, “Just Kidding” is a sibling show to YouTube channels Hidden Camera Classics and Just For Laughs: Gags. Just Kidding has only been putting out content for three months and already has well over a million views.
We sat down with friend and contributor to NMR Carlos Pacheco, who is the digital director of the Just for Laughs: Gags YouTube network, to talk about developing “Just Kidding” for TV and the host for the new Disney iteration, YouTuber Zach Fox.
“Just Kidding” has only been around for three months and already has close to 2 million views and a Disney XD show in the works. What do you owe the channel’s success to, especially in such a short period of time?
I think it’s a combination of things.
First, it really helps that our main channel (youtube/gags) has been around for so long and has such a massive online following. Using that, we were able to leverage that audience to introduce as well as continuously promote our new channels. Since its launch, we have included links in each video description as well as a dedicated end “bumper” with annotations that promote our sister channels.
Second, the “Just Kidding” formula is classic and simple. That transcends very well online. Hidden camera pranks are universal, and since we avoid dialogue it opens us to a much larger viewing audience; we’re huge in Japan!
Finally, I think there’s a space to fill on YouTube in terms of safe and family friendly entertainment. A lot of the popular channels, as well as the new ones that are being launched these days, seems to be going for the same typical geeky adult audience which is getting saturated. That said, not a lot are reaching reaching out to the kids and families. Yes, there are a few channels like PBS, “Sesame Street” and Vids4kids which are great, but it’s still an untapped audience that is growing. YouTube is taking steps to diversify and increase the quality of its content as well as its audience, and I think we’re the perfect example of that.
The Disney XD version of “Just Kidding” will be hosted by Zach Fox. Do you think he will be a good fit for “Just Kidding”?
Zack was Disney’s choice, and the producers have absolutely no problem with it. During filming, the chemistry with the kids was obvious, and he got along beautifully with the rest of the crew. Zack is naturally funny and outgoing, always cracking jokes and really fun to work with. I personally wasn’t on set during filming, but I’ve had access to some of Zack’s scenes in post-production, and he’s the perfect fit for “Just Kidding.”
How are you planning on moving from web to television in terms of “Just Kidding” content? Will pranks be longer?
The only difference is that it will assemble between 8-12 pranks to create a half-hour show, and Zack will become the voice of “Just Kidding” by hosting and setting up each prank.
“Just Kidding” currently has a unique style of not including dialogue at all. Will this transition to the Disney show as well?
Disney was sold on the “Just Kidding” pranks formula with no dialogue. As mentioned, having Zack as a host will give the series a voice for the audience to identify with.
The “Just Kidding” series is a spinoff of the Just For Laughs Gags whose formula is classic. It’s worked very well over the last 12 years on both TV and online.
Finally, one point that I would like to mention is the fact that “Just Kidding” was a completely new brand; we had zero advertising support or promotion other than cross promotion with our other channels. We didn’t even have a “star” attached to the channel. Without all that, we were able to build a fan base of over 26k and over 2 million views (as of this week) in under 3 months (first video was uploaded June 9th).
I don’t know if anybody’s keeping track of the 100 YouTube original channels, but I’m pretty sure we’re doing better than a lot of those channels.