To consider teens and television today, we have to look online to the channels that are popping up to target teen audiences. Recently, television producers are moving online to find teens who have been spending more time on their computers and mobile devices. Producers are attracted to online channels by the increased creative freedom and better control over their content. Investors are attracted by the economics of cheap production, virtually free distribution, and potentially lucrative product placement and licensing deals. Advertisers are attracted by teens’ higher engagement with online content, willingness to share personal information online, and improved recall of online ads.
One of the most successful online channels for teens, Shut Up! Cartoons, is a YouTube channel that was launched on April 30 by Smosh, an online brand who has since been purchased by Alloy Digital (Teen.com and Gurl.com), a division of Alloy Entertainment, the company behind television shows like Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and The Vampire Diaries. One of their most successful series is Pubertina, a show created by Emily Brundige that features an eleven year old girl named Pubertina, or "Pubes." She is not a protagonist you would typically find in primetime television, and the show has been the subject of much debate in the comments section where many (mainly boys) argued the show was offensive and disgusting, while many (mainly girls) argued that it was a funny show they could relate to. Pubertina has been very successful by internet standards with the debut episode getting over two million views, and the rest of the ten episodes totaling between 500,000 and two million views each.
In order to get that kind of success, these online channels have to somehow stand out in the vast ocean of content that exists online. To do that, many of these channels have borrowed from the television playbook and programmed their shows for specific dates and times. Producers hope they can create appointment viewing, which may help create “buzz” around some shows, and depending on their deals with advertisers, earn the channels more money for more views within a certain timeframe.
So if more teens are watching content online, and online channels are so attractive to producers, investors, and advertisers, are these online channels the future of television for the teen audience? Will they open up a space where unique series like Pubertina can get access to a wider audience?