Awesomeness TV's network hopes to convince talent from rival networks that they need a full-time manager
Megan DeAngelis reaches more than 600,000 people every time she posts a video about her morning routine or latest make-up obsession to her YouTube channel, where she performs under the name MayBabyTumbler. That number makes her valuable to AwesomenessTV, the multi-channel network that distributes her channel, and sells advertising against it — enriching both DeAngelis (above) and Awesomeness.
Yet Big Frame, a smaller network that Awesomeness bought in April, believes DeAngelis’ large subscriber base makes her even more valuable to a manager who can parlay her audience into a deal with a cosmetics company or a book.
Big Frame is building a management practice dedicated to online video stars, seeking out clients from within its own portfolio and from rival networks. Big Frame co-founder Sarah Penna will run this part of the business with a team of four, and plans to hire a couple more managers to help her score new clients.
She just signed DeAngelis, who previously had an outside manager, and has her eyes on any YouTuber that appeals to the teenage girl demographic.
The decision to operate a standalone management company reflects the maturation of YouTube. As the celebrity of various video stars grows, the advertisements before a YouTube video matter less and less. Sponsorships, speaking engagements and deals with Netflix or international TV operators are all increasingly prominent sources of revenue.
“We're starting to see people really start to cross over and have careers that have a lot of facets to them,” Penna's co-founder Steve Raymond told TheWrap. “The amount of money that you're making from Google AdSense is just piece of it, and it's not really the thing that's driving our business.”
Raymond will bridge the gap between the management company and Big Frame's network, which includes channels like Polished and MysteryGuitarMan. He and Penna will spin off the management part of the business into a separate entity that reports its profits and losses separate from the rest of the Big Frame Network.
Management has always been a part of various networks, including Big Frame, Maker Studios and Fullscreen, but Big Frame could not pursue a full-fledged management company while they depended on venture funding.
“It would have been too hard to explain to the investment community,” Raymond said. After the AwesomenessTV deal, Raymond and Penna have been able to reorient the company in a way that reflects their respective strengths. Penna's focus has always been talent management, and the alliance with AwesomenessTV provides another deep source of clients.
“We have 90,000 channels,” AwesomenessTV CEO Brian Robbins told TheWrap. “They are looking at who is on our network and who they can help us develop.
“Eventually you will see them manage talent across the whole network.”
One executive from a rival network questioned why talent from other networks would need Big Frame.
“It's hard to believe other networks would provide management experience different from what we do,” the executive told TheWrap.
Many online video networks have fixated on scaling their distribution and advertising sales networks. Scale satisfies investors, and intrigues media companies. The rapid growth of AwesomenessTV and Maker Studios paved the way for their sales to DreamWorks Animation and Disney while Fullscreen, the largest independent network in the world, has been the target of various suitors.
Yet as a company scales, management becomes a secondary part of the business.
“I think it's going to be a wake-up call for everybody, I really do,” Penna said. “A lot of the [MCN]s are moving out of the talent business. They have a lot of their managers managing 300 channels; at a certain point, does it make sense for them to pay for employees who are managing 300 people?”
Penna and Raymond are not the only ones who think networks are going to need to focus on specific areas of the business. Management will be theirs.
They do not enter an empty field. There are already few independent managers fill the void while traditional talent giants like CAA, WME and UTA have certain agents dedicated to the online space.
Some major networks, like Fullscreen, operate management practices while The Collective represents a handful of the biggest stars on YouTube, including EpicMealTime and Freddie Wong. Yet The Collective handles every aspect of their lucrative enterprises. There is no management company dedicated to the online space that is also network-agnostic.
“We're looking at being a lot more flexible with how we work with talent, and they can stay in other people's networks, if that's the right thing for them,” Raymond said.
A number of talent managers from other networks, agents and executives saw no reason they could not work with Penna.
While “it's a bit more emotional for an MCN to let go of a talent to be managed by another company that happens to be an MCN,” that cannot get in the way of business.
“When talent decides they want to be managed by a certain person, it is incumbent upon that MCN to find a way to work with that new representative,” a manager from a large MCN told TheWrap.