As co-host of syndicated entertainment newsmagazine “Extra,” Maria Menounos talks a lot about TV. But she’s even chattier online.
The multihyphenate behind an upcoming reality show on Oxygen, a film and TV production company and a book series, as well as spokeswoman for brands like Pantene, has quietly built YouTube network AfterBuzz into a platform for fans to discuss what’s happening on their favorite shows.
The discourse comes in the form of video podcasts streamed live after an episode of a given series airs, with hosts breaking down plot points and doling out opinions on what they’ve seen. The result is essentially a number of sports-style wrap-up shows that now cover more than 200 series, with “Bad Girls Club,” “Homeland,” “Glee,” “Once Upon a Time” and “Scandal” among the five most popular each week.
“It’s about giving fans as close to an inside experience to their favorite shows as humanly possible,” Menounos says.
Launched in 2012 with her longtime partner, filmmaker Keven Undergaro, before similar show-specific versions like “Talking Dead” popped up on AMC, AfterBuzz celebrated its 5,000th episode in November. The venture is one of the reasons Menounos was tapped to serve as the Entertainment Matters Ambassador for the 2014 Intl. CES, taking place Jan. 7-10 in Las Vegas.
“Her successes through television, film and the Internet are a true testament to the importance of merging content and technology to create the next generation of entertainment,” said Karen Chupka, senior VP of events and conferences for the Consumer Electronics Assn.
AfterBuzz also has become an important piece of Menounos’ brand-building portfolio, especially as her career essentially sets her up to become the female version of Ryan Seacrest. She also hosts “Conversations With Maria Menounos,” an online talkshow featuring interviews with celebs like Vin Diesel, Avril Lavigne and Rob Lowe. She’ll use 650,000 Twitter followers and segments on “Extra” to attract viewers.
But with AfterBuzz, Menounos is capturing the kind of water-cooler commentary TV networks are spending heavily to promote on social media.
“I pay close attention to how anyone under 20 is communicating around media, and AfterBuzz is smart in taking advantage of that conversation and organizing it,” said Seth Green, who appeared on the 5,000th episode in support of his Fox series, “Dads.”
With episodes streaming on the AfterBuzz TV website, and available on YouTube, Stitcher and iTunes, the company’s podcasts are seeing audience levels grow to 20 million each week from more than 100 countries. “The younger demo is thankfully still consuming scripted and unscripted content, and we feel they always will,” Menounos said. “However, they are doing it online via their phones and other mobile devices.”
AfterBuzz’s variety of shows has enabled it to attract a broad audience that also has helped secure attractive ad deals with advertisers like Fox, ABC, Slimfast and Arm & Hammer. Having knowledgeable, dedicated hosts who work in Hollywood, and matching them with celebrities, cast members and showrunners for in-studio interviews has proved successful.
AfterBuzz recently added a third studio, with a goal of growing the profiles of its 200 onscreen hosts the way Oprah Winfrey helped launch the TV careers of personalities like Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz. Only this time, they’re more likely to become the next YouTube star.
Naturally, Menounos is using AfterBuzz to promote her own endeavors with an ad for her new book, “The EveryGirl’s Guide to Diet and Fitness,” and Undergaro’s comedy feature film “Adventures of Serial Buddies.”
Her appearance as a contestant on “Dancing With the Stars” was also hyped on the site.
But more than any of her other endeavors, Afterbuzz complements the work for which she is known best. “The fact that Afterbuzz relates to TV and pop culture surely matches what I do as an entertainment host and reporter,” she says, but “digital broadcasting is also the future, so it’s a healthy space for me to invest in.”