Today, popular YouTube-famous pranksters Roman Atwood, VitalyZD, and Dennis Roady premiered their feature film from Studio71 and Lionsgate, “Natural Born Pranksters.” And while the new-gen prankster trio is hitting the big screen, vet YouTube prankster and television reality show host, Jack Vale, is plugging into the direct-to-fan trend with the launch of a new subscription site and exclusive slate of programming. Designed for the little screen and across platforms, he’s betting his fans are going to not only follow, but willing to pay a fee to watch.
Vale, who built a following on YouTube that has stacked up to over 1.6 million subscribers to date, has become known for his family-friendly, “Candid Camera”-esque style of pranking unsuspecting victims. The format, for the most part, isn’t ground breaking. Prank shows have often fared well on television, where Vale also found a home as the host of an adaptation of his YouTube videos on HLN called “Jack Vale: Offline.” While the show was performing well for HLN, according to Vale, it fell victim to Relativity’s bankruptcy and the accompanying scandal surrounding that business. And so he’s returned to the drawing boards — with a few projects in development for television and a few ideas of his own, Vale is exploring ways to expand his business well beyond YouTube.
“A lot of people aren’t making what they used to make on YouTube. The numbers are down. It’s getting harder and harder to be able to do YouTube full time,” he told VideoInk in a phone interview. For that reason, among others, Vale began building a subscription offering for his fans that would empower him to take ownership of his content, his revenue, and his livelihood in a non-traditional-Hollywood way.
It was then that direct-to-fan platform VHX serendipitously got in touch to offer Vale a turn-key solution for standing up a new premium destination, which is now live as a pay-walled version of his original fan site, JackVale.com.
“I discovered a few other channels doing similar things as to what I wanted to do. And what I really liked a lot was Black and Sexy TV. Their business model, to me, is incredible. you watch their content and it has such an indie feel, I think they found a really wonderful niche and I can see how people can get behind that program. Obviously they’ve done very very well. That’s how everything unraveled [with VHX].”
So for $5 a month or $50 a year, Vale’s fans will now have access to the best of the best he has to produce, whether that’s the prank videos characteristic of his historic style or new sketch comedy formats or scripted and unscripted originals. “I’ve been making videos for free on YouTube for a very long time. And since the numbers are down, I think this will be a great way for me to use those membership fees to step up my game and make higher quality content; to be able to do the series and sketches and pranks that require bigger budgets.”
Some of those projects are already in the works, including a 10 episode scripted comedy series that pays homage to the David Spade Chris Farley odd couple dynamic, about a duo that escapes jail. At launch, Vale has syndicated over 100 videos from his YouTube Channel.
Vale is making a bet. And while that bet isn’t unsound, the challenge will be whether he’s enterting a cluttered market. NBC Universal has launched Seeso, Fullscreen will soon roll out its long-awaited SVOD service, and creators like Anthony Cumia and kids network YoBoHo are using turnkey companies like similar business, Zype, and VHX to stand up streaming services.
Vale doesn’t deny this model can’t work for every creator, but is confident in the passion of his fans and the comedic style he’s known for. “It may work fo rsome people and it may for others. It depends on the creators. I’ve spent a lot of time building up a fan base that knows what I stand for, so having a niche really helps,” he said.
There’s going to be a threshold for when consumers stop buying a la carte; but for now, the creators are still commanding influence and rabid fandom to accompany that. Whether that fandom can translate in the long tail will be a make or break, not only for creators going indie but the streaming destinations building their businesses on the backs of talent-driven titles.