Would there be Broad City without the internet? The Comedy Central hit was originally a YouTube series before the Viacom-owned network snapped it up. The show, created by real-life best friends Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, is a success in no small part to the obvious chemistry between the two leading ladies. It’s a chemistry born from their friendship, certainly, but also from the experience they had on YouTube. The Comedy Central show premiered fully-formed thanks to the digital space acting as a test chamber for Jacobson and Glazer’s concept.
The digital landscape is certainly changing the way viewers engage with their favorite shows and brands. But not all of the changes are disruptive. YouTube and social media allow fresh shows to stretch their legs and find their rhythm before airing in the cutthroat world of television ratings.
Another YouTube star making the move to television is Grace Helbig. With over two million subscribers to her YouTube channel, Helbig has built a huge audience. But it didn’t happen overnight. The oldest video on Helbig’s channel was uploaded a full eight years ago. The slow-burn of uploading, experimenting, and getting real-time feedback has allowed Helbig to refine and expand her style in preparation for The Grace Helbig show on E!. That built-in web audience can also build buzz for the premiere of the show on April 3rd. A recent video from Helbig’s channel features her interviewing other E! personalities about what hosting a television show is like.
But the web isn’t just for new shows trying to find their footing. It’s also breathing new life into old formats.
Late night talk shows are hotter than ever. Hosts like Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon are regularly pulling in millions of digital views from their late night sketches. At a recent panel, NBCUniversal CEO Steve Burke said, “we think about 70% of the views of Jimmy Fallon and The Tonight Show occur online.”
These views are directly affecting how these shows operate. Last July, The Tonight Show ran a sketch called “Wheel of Impressions” with Dana Carvey. The segment racked up three million views online. Another installment of “Wheel”, this time with singer Adam Levine, was viewed 23 million times. The sketch was so successful that this one-off segment is now a staple on the show.
While there is plenty of uncertainty about the future of television in our digital world, it’s not all doom and gloom. The Internet can serve as an incubator for traditional forms of media, allowing producers and creators to see what works and refining their own shows for the future.
Bailey Johnson is a contributor to What’s Trending, an online show highlighting the best viral videos and the latest trends on YouTube. Its co-founder & CEO Shira Lazar will notably be in Cannes this April for MIPFormats, speaking on the panel “Digital: the birthplace of new formats?” What’s Trending are also media partners of MIPTV’s MIP Digital Fronts.
Top photo: Adam Levine at The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon – via NBC