Why CBS Is Loading ‘The Amazing Race’ With Social Media Stars

Season 28 of reality contest will send “social media influencers” including Tyler Oakley and Korey Kuhl running around the world

Tyler Oakley, center, is amongst the 22 social media stars cast on CBS' next "The Amazing Race," debuting in February 2016. (White House Photo, CBS(2))

President Obama drafted LGBT icon Tyler Oakley to talk health care at the White House and now CBS is sending him abroad to represent the U.S.

Oakley and 21 other social media stars will race around the world on latest edition of “The Amazing Race.”

The 10-time Emmy-winning reality franchise is sending 11 teams of social media influencers — YouTubers, Viners, Gamers and Instagram models — out into the wild for Season 28, which will begin shooting at an undisclosed location in the coming days.

Co-creators and Executive Producers Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster, who are a couple themselves, arrive at the 2014 Emmys on their way in to a win. (David Livingston/Getty Images for TheWrap)
Co-creators and Executive Producers Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster/ Getty Images

This is as close as “Race” producers have come to an all-celebrity season, with some of these personalities already household names (Oakley, “Magic Viner” Zach King, Vine teen heartthrob Cole LaBrant) and some with more niche followings online (Instagram models Jessica Versteeg and Brittany Oldehoff).

It’s a natural move for the show’s creators — creator/executive producer couple Elise Doganieri and Bertram van Munster (above), host/producer Phil Keoghan and casting director Lynne Spillman —  who have inched closer and closer to casting all-out media professionals over the past few years.

Last spring, the “Race” flirted with the idea of social media stars, casting fashion blogger Jenny Wu (“GoodBadandFab.com”) who diligently pre-loaded three weeks worth of content to publish on a timer as she was traveling around the world.

Fashion lawyer turned fashion blogger Jenny Wu and sports agent lawyer Jelani Roy previously competed on the show. (GoodBadandFab.com; MontyBrinton/CBS)
Jenny Wu and sports agent lawyer Jelani Roy (GoodBadandFab.com; MontyBrinton/CBS)

That season had the biggest casting tweak to date, welcoming five “blind date” couples who met at the starting line, a noisy tweak that brought needed attention to the show’s schedule shift to Friday nights after years in the coveted the Sunday night spot.

The currently airing season of “The Amazing Race” is dominated with performers and media professionals. The group includes two personalities who appear daily on the TMZ TV show, two local newscasters, two additional paparazzi (beyond the TMZ pair), two full-time street performers who previously appeared on multiple other reality shows, two women who were professional NFL cheerleaders, two male models, and a couple who made a viral video about “The Amazing Race” itself.

Shevonne Sullivan (left) and Kelly Berning (right) appear daily on "TMZ". Now they are racing on CBS' "Amazing Race", in production as of Monday, June 22. (Mikey Glazer)
Shevonne Sullivan (left) and Kelly Berning (right) appear on “TMZ.” (Mikey Glazer)

It makes sense that instead of dancing around the edges of the pool of performance-oriented people who are media-adjacent, producers would dive in head first with prominent names like Oakley, who has his own feature film coming out next month.

In another first, host/producer Keoghan will stream live video from the first leg of the show on his Facebook feed this Sunday, Nov. 15 at approximately 7:30 p.m. PT.

An avid cycler who spends his off-seasons recreating the Tour de France on a vintage 1938 bike, Keoghan is also a regular live tweeter during Friday night airings of the show and has co-hosted viewing parties in L.A. where fans and alums could come and watch the show.

This “live look in” is part of an ongoing strategy by both Doganieri/van Munster and CBS to give fans greater access. After sequestering the show in secrecy for most of their runs, “The Amazing Race” has recently done two “open to the public” starting line segments, one in Times Square and one on Venice Beach (above).

Jeff Probst, and Mark Burnett staged a nationwide two-week vote-on campaign last May for the currently airing season of “Survivor,” letting fans choose the entire cast from a pool of 32 returning favorites.

Fans will vote 20 alums back on to the show from a pool of 32 in a contest that runs through May 20. (Photo illustration by Mikey Glazer, images via CBS)
Fans voted 20 alums back onto “Survivor” (Photo illustration by Mikey Glazer, images via CBS)

While remaining vigilant about the series being spoiler-free, the inclusion of returning players and social media stars whose lives are on-going reality shows followed by millions of fans raises the degree of difficulty in keeping a lid on the “early boots” for months, when they are likely to reemerge online or in the public.

As for their casting, CBS had the contestants announce the news themselves on their channels 30 minutes before an embargo lifted for other media. The social engineers are driving the train and CBS is laying the track.

Here’s who’s in the driver’s seat for the upcoming season.

  • Tyler Oakley (7.7 million subscribers) and podcast pal Korey Kuhl
  • Rooster Teeth COO Burnie Burns (8.2 million subscribers) and girlfriend, Ashley
  • Clevver TV hosts Erin White Robinson and Joslyn Davis
  • Vine teen heartthrob Cole LaBrant (6.5 million followers) and mother, Sheri
  • Magic Viner Zach King (3.7 million followers) and wife, Rachel
  • Dance video super stars Dana Borriello and Matt Steffanina (2.4 million Youtube subscribers)
  • Instagram models Jessica Versteeg and Brittany Oldehoff (in the low end, with only 60,000 followers together)
  • Viral video star Marty Cobb and daughter, Hagan Parkman (Cobb’s flight attendant safety demonstration video netted over 22 million views online)
  • Beauty Youtuber Blair Fowler (1.7 million subscribers) and dad, Scott
  • Pro Frisbee players Kurt Gibson and Brodie Smith (1 million followers)
  • Brothers Cameron and Darius Benson (3 million Vine followers)

“The Amazing Race” 27 is currently airing on Friday nights at 8 p.m. Season 28 will begin airing in February 2016.