By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)
Streaming video is growing up, and as such, it’s succumbing to the siren song of big name advertisers and studios. YouTube is already creating unsteady waters for content creators with their new monetization policies, and now, Hank and John Green have gone corporate, selling their popular VidCon content creator convention to one of the largest media conglomerates in the world … VIACOM.
“VidCon has become the foremost gathering place for the passionate online video community, and the access to talent, experts and education that VidCon provides for attendees is unparalleled,” said Jason Jordan, Viacom executive vice president of Multiplatform Strategy and Operations. “We’re excited to partner with the team to help achieve their vision and expand VidCon’s reach around the world while maintaining the grassroots energy and authenticity that makes the experience so unique and special to so many.”
The main goal that the Green Brothers, and their CEO Jim Louderback, have is to make Vidcon go global. I get that. Bring the content creators to their audience, around the world, so that there’s more outreach, and so that creators can not only be in touch with their audience, but so they can learn how to be better content creators.
“I couldn’t imagine a better partner to help VidCon continue its mission of democratizing the creative economy around the world,” said Jim Louderback, CEO of VidCon. “Viacom’s expansive reach across all of our key constituents will give us the opportunity to expand our global footprint more rapidly. We’re also looking forward to their expertise in pioneering and executing live fan-first events – from the Video Music Awards and BET Experience to Comedy Central’s ClusterFest – as we continue to make VidCon a life-changing experience for those that create and love online video.”
Vidcon has been on a meteoric rise since launching their YouTube fan fest eight years ago. What started with 1200 attendees in 2010, has ballooned to over 30,000 fans seeking to engage with 300 of the most popular content creators ranging from Philip DeFranco to Markiplier to Casey Neistat.
But last year, we also saw major brands like Disney Digital, the Food network, Kodak and NBC have a serious presence there. With Viacom entering the mix, I can’t help but wonder if we’ll be seeing more high end brands and fewer of the creators that made VidCon special.
The Green’s are confident that won’t happen. In an interview with Forbes, Hank Green said “I’m so happy that we found such a strong, successful, and progressive company to give our team the stability and resources needed to make bold moves at home and grow what we’re doing internationally. Viacom has decades of expertise creating incredible live events for fans, and we are building something truly unique by blending that with our team’s deep care and passion for the community and culture of online video. I’m so excited to be part of this team and to continue our work connecting people, providing amazing experiences and helping creators create.”
But doesn’t he really have to say that? Sure, Viacom has its roots in fan events for Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and MTV. All Viacom properties. Moreover, with Vidcon events launching next month in Amsterdam, and then a return to the Anaheim convention center in June, it’s likely this new partnership will initially make the YouTube fest bigger and even better than ever.
But Viacom has also just launched their own digital streaming studios and has also acquired the marketing firm WhoSay. So it’s pretty clear they mean a full court press towards the young online audience. In addition, it wasn’t that long ago that the company was threatening Youtube with a billion dollar lawsuit over alleged copyright violations by eager YouTubers posting clips from their properties. They settled out of court, but the message was sent.
With every finger that corporate America gets into online content creation, a little bit of the democratic nature of what made it special will die, in my opinion. I guess that’s the natural evolution of things, but will we look back on this time and be thankful that VidCon has a corporate benefactor, or lament for the simpler times when it was just content creator and his audience?