Talk Shows and the Viral Web

Hollywood is desperately and often pathetically welcoming the Internet as a viable platform for distribution. That said, there are two talk show superstars whose efforts simply stand out from the rest. Both Jimmy Kimmel and Ellen Degeneres not only cater to massive mainstream audiences on television, but they just seem to “get” the power of Internet.

But if we had to pick a winner, who would it be?

Ellen Degeneres: The Viral Video Piggy-backer

Ellen went from zero to hero with her syndicated talk show debut in 2003, and finding someone who doesn’t appreciate her comedic genius is rare. She was one of the first to highlight viral web content on her show, but she’s taken it to the next level. Ellen successfully turns viral web content into reoccurring programming geared to the masses. And the masses are loving it, I should add.

Believe it or not, Sophia Grace and Rosie, the famous childhood rapping duo, went viral (way before Ellen came along) with this video.

Wasting no time, Ellen scooped them up first and they were invited to perform on the show. After a series of twists and turns, Sophia Grace and Rosie continue to make appearances (like this one below) and will forever be associated with the Ellen brand.

Ellen also knows how to piggy-back on celebrity clout, driving instant  traffic to her online segments by tapping into mass fandoms. This recent segment with Taylor Swift demonstrates just how much she gets away with because she’s just so lovable.


Jimmy Kimmel: The Viral Video Generator

Jimmy Kimmel debuted as a late-night talk show host the same year as Ellen, but caters to a much different audience. Like many late night hosts, Kimmel is known for humorous gags and skits with content for a more mature audience. A few months ago, however, he issued a Halloween YouTube challenge that had the viral video world buzzing.

One segment stood out in particular:

One thing led to another. CJ and Jake made their first national TV appearance on Jimmy Kimmel.

Like Ellen, Jimmy also knows how to use celebrity to create the kind of content that goes viral on the Internet. Oprah’s book fight club? That’ll do it.

Or what about a movie trailer with every A-list celebrity imaginable?


Whether you’re generating viral content for both television and web, or piggy-backing on content that has already gone viral, it’s a strategy to build unified audiences across more than one platform. Ellen and Jimmy’s styles are very different, but they both understand the approach needed to bridge the needs of traditional and new programming. The mainstream industry is finally acknowledging web culture in a “can’t beat them, join them” fashion.

As we, the web, have vast options and short attention spans, Hollywood has no choice but to give us what we want. May the best man meme win.

Phil Pallen is a Social Media Designer based in Los Angeles, managing brands for celebrity and high-profile clients throughout North America.