Amy Yasbeck and Ted McGinley join cast as chain seeks family audience.
Created with “Two and a Half Men”-helmer Jamie Widdoes and “Growing Pains”-scribe Tim O’Donnell, series revolves around the lives of a group of high school students as they take on their first part-time jobs.
Project bowed as six 10-minute episodes available for free through Hulu’s website its apps and on subscriber-based Hulu+.
New episodes will stream under the title “4 to 9ers Reloaded,” available again as an exclusive Hulu Spotlight series.
Series’ extended run was greenlit after the show generated over 5 million views, becoming Hulu’s most popular short-form comedy series. Show’s viewership was boosted after it was promoted on Hulu’s carousel every Tuesday, and was given its own dedicated page on the service — both considered prime real estate. Subway also hyped the series to its 21 million fans on Facebook and over 1 million Twitter followers.
Subway and branded entertainment shop Content & Co., which produced the show, with shingle’s Peter Isacksen serving as executive producer, saw the project as a way for the chain to connect with a younger consumer.
“Through high quality entertainment, we’ve found a way to effectively reach our teen target audience by creating a show that celebrates them, rather than sells to them,” said Tony Pace, global chief marketing officer at Subway Franchise World headquarters.
But in the follow up, Content & Co. wants to reach a broader viewership, primarily families, through the addition of Yasbeck and McGinley, who play parents with a secret romance.
The intent is to “make it feel more like a broadcast series,” said Stuart McLean, founder and CEO of Content & Co., which also produces original entertainment for Schick and Energizer Personal Care.
Moses Jacob Storm (“No Ordinary Family”), Galadriel Stineman (“True Blood”), Ashton Moio (“Dexter”), Kallee Brookes (“Parenthood”), Jack DePew (“2 Broke Girls”), Kristi Lauren (“Wizards of Waverly Place”), David H. Lawrence XVII (“Lost”) and Becky and Jessie O’Donohue (“The Big Bang Theory”) return as the working teens.
Overall show’s concept fit well with Subway, given that the Milford, Conn.-based chain operates more than 35,000 restaurants worldwide, McLean said.
“There’s a universal right of passage that revolves around being a teenager and getting your first job,” he said. “With that comes your first crush, your first car, your first taste of freedom.
With (tens of thousands of) stores, Subway is giving a lot of people their first jobs and provided a great backdrop for the storylines” of the web series.
In the show, Subway is one of the companies in the mall setting that hires two of the characters.
“Our experience has been that if the brand is there in an appropriate way, people are fine with that,” Pace said.
The “4 to 9ers” is the latest brand-backed series to find a following online and continue with additional seasons. Ikea has also found success with Illeana Douglas’ “Easy to Assemble,” which ran for four seasons.
It’s also the latest entertainment effort that Subway is looking to continue after pairing up with NBC’s “The Biggest Loser” for 11 installments, multiple sports specials with “The Office’s” Brian Baumgartner, the “Subway Fresh Artists Filmmakers” program, and an ongoing promotional partnership with Disney.
“One of my foundational principles is we try to do stuff for the longterm,” Pace said. “Some of my least favorite references are when things are referenced as a marketing ploy, marketing stunt or marketing scheme. We don’t like doing that.”
As it often does with its entertainment productions, Subway will repurpose some footage lensed during the one-week shoot for commercials and other online content.
While Subway wouldn’t disclose financial terms of its deal with Hulu, venture is a destination “where you can construct deals that are mutually beneficial that make good marketing and business sense” for both parties.