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Disney’s Split With Jake Paul Spotlights Challenge for Social Media Sensations

Actor and vlogger Jake Paul had a good thing going: a burgeoning audience for his antics on social media and a group of die-hard fans who enjoyed his presence on the kooky Disney Channel program “Bizaardvark.” Playing to both crowds, however, may have posed a challenge.

Paul had recently asked executives associated with the program for more time away from the set to pursue his growing social-media fan base, according to people familiar with the situation. After some discussions between the Disney Channel and his representatives, his request was granted. Paul does not appear in every episode of the series, which follows two female best friends as they post funny songs and videos online. The show has already filmed 35 episodes over two seasons, with just five left to be produced in its second cycle, an insider confirmed.  The consensus among Disney Channel executives is that Paul had been good to work with, and respectful to producers, crew, and network staff. But his personal business ventures positioned him toward an older audience, these people said, while Disney Channel remains geared towards kids and families. Simply put, Paul was outgrowing the network.

On Saturday night, Disney Channel announced it had parted ways with the actor. “We’ve mutually agreed that Jake Paul will leave his role on the Disney Channel series ‘Bizaardvark,’” the network said in a statement. “On behalf of the production company, the cast, and crew, we thank Jake for his good work on the TV series for the past 18 months and extend our best wishes to him.”

The split highlights the hurdles that can arise for actors who cultivate consumer bases via activity on social media and the more traditional media companies who seek to harness their talents. Media outlets of many stripes have sought to employ social media celebrities for several years.  Consider Grace Helbig, who parlayed success on YouTube into a limited-run talk show on NBCUniversal’s E!, as well as ad campaigns for Marriott and Lowe’s. CNN recently announced plans to launch a daily streaming-video effort by vlogging sensation Casey Neistat.

What generates attention on YouTube and elsewhere may not always mesh with the business needs of big media conglomerates like Time Warner and Walt Disney. In February, Disney’s Maker Studios said it had backed away from a partnership it had with Felix Kjellberg, the Swedish actor and YouTube sensation better known as PewDiePie. Kjellberg was slated to take part in a Maker Studios series and an advertising partnership but had posted a series of videos making use of anti-Semitic imagery. “Although Felix has created a following by being provocative and irreverent, he clearly went too far in this case, and the resulting videos are inappropriate,’’ a Maker Studios spokeswoman said in a statement at the time. “Maker Studios has made the decision to end our affiliation with him going forward.”

Paul had recently sparked controversy by performing stunts in and around his West Hollywood neighborhood and attracting hangers-on. Los Angeles TV station KTLA reported that neighbors were considering taking legal action against him.

In a post on Twitter, Paul indicated he was eager to focus “more on [his] personal brand, YouTube channel, business ventures” and “working on more adult acting roles.”

Paul is now 20 and 1/2 years old — at the upper range of talent for Disney programs. He was originally cast for the show in December of 2015. Production on “Bizaardvark” commenced in January of last year. The program, which centers around Madison Hu and Olivia Rodrigo as the two best friends, ranks twelfth among live-action series in 2017 to date viewed by both kids between the ages of 6 and 12 and 6 and 14, according to Nielsen data. The program is the seventh most-watched Disney Channel series among kids in those two categories.

In the show, Paul played Dirk Mann, the star of a fictional series called “Dare Me Bro,” on which he would perform stunts based on dares he accepted. He may do something similar for his social-media gathering and be very successful at it, but it may not be exactly right for the crowd that tunes into Disney Channel.

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