Jerry Seinfeld is a very smart and funny guy. But the 60-year-old comic obviously is not familiar with what appeals to younger audiences.
Seinfeld, at Sony’s Crackle upfront Tuesday in New York, majorly dissed YouTube. When asked about the place for user-generated content in the digital-media landscape, he responded, “The less the better” — and added: “We have a giant garbage can called YouTube for user-generated content.”
He appeared at the Gotham event to promote “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee,” his original series which will return to Crackle for a sixth season June 4 with guests including Stephen Colbert, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Bill Maher, Steve Harvey, Jim Carrey and Trevor Noah (newly named host of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show”).
But Jerry’s trashing of YouTube — clearly, aimed at positioning Crackle as in a different league in front of Madison Avenue buyers — is misinformed.
All major Hollywood studios and broadcast and cable TV networks use YouTube in one way or another. Major draws on the Google-owned service include clips from Ellen DeGeneres, Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon and dozens of other media outlets. YouTube also is a significant driver of movie trailers and TV previews.
In addition, there’s a huge swath of original material that’s not even on TV — and, arguably, is better than Jerry’s original TV show.
“There’s this misconception that YouTube is UGC,” said Defy Media president Keith Richman in an interview. “We produce stuff that is way better than the first season of ‘Seinfeld.’ The first season looked like crap… It’s practically unwatchable.”
Many in Hollywood and the ad community have moved past looking at YouTube as a vast UGC wasteland. Instead, they’re increasingly eager to tap into YouTube’s billion-plus monthly viewers. Popular franchises that have emerged on the service range from Epic Rap Battles to Michelle Phan’s makeup and beauty empire; from the Fine Bros.’s React series to Rhett and Link’s “Good Mythical Morning”; and include altogether new formats unlike anything on TV, such as PewDiePie’s profane gameplay narration. PewDiePie may not be your cup of tea (or Seinfeld’s) but he’s built the No. 1 individual YouTube channel with 36.1 million subscribers.
“In the U.S. alone, networks like MTV and Nickelodeon have lost that core (teen and tween) audience that have traditionally kept them afloat,” AwesomenessTV founder and CEO Brian Robbins said at the MipTV conference this week. “Everyone knows that content consumption has moved to YouTube, online and mobile.”
Meanwhile, despite Seinfeld’s smack talk, he’s savvy enough to know top YouTubers draw some very large audiences. One of his guests in season 5 of “Comedians in Cars” was YouTube star Miranda Sings, the odd but endearing alter ego of comedian and singer Colleen Ballinger, who has 3.8 million subscribers and has generated 437 million video views to date.
Content from digital-first studio Defy, distributed on YouTube and other platforms, includes Smosh — the comedy team who are starring in “Smosh: The Movie,” slated for release this summer — as well as Screen Junkies (proprietors of “Honest Trailers”); Movie Fights; Made Man (whose shows include “Speakeasy” and “Gentleman Up”); Break (“Prank It Forward”); and entertainment and pop-culture brand Clevver.
At the Sony event, Seinfeld boasted that “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee” last month crested 100 million views to date. That’s great. But PewDiePie has 85 times that to date, with 8.5 billion (although, to be sure, with shorter clips). Defy Media, for one, says it reaches about 150 million viewers per month between its YouTube and mobile apps. Other digital-centric media properties like Disney’s Maker Studios, Fullscreen and AwesomenessTV are in the same ballpark (or bigger). Indeed, the Maker multichannel network has north of 11 billion monthly views.
“I’m a huge Seinfeld fan, but he’s out of touch with youth,” said Richman.