Pocket.watch has repackaged content from top YouTube kids franchises — including the mega-popular Ryan ToysReview channel — into half-hour TV show formats that are now streaming on Hulu and Amazon Prime Video.
The startup is looking to sell the collection of TV shows internationally, too, through a pact with Paramount Pictures. The shows mark the latest line of business for Pocket.watch, launched in the spring of 2017 by CEO Chris M. Williams. The company’s strategy: to develop and launch internet-centric children’s media brands that yield multiple revenue streams.
“For us, it’s about a global extension into these long-form platforms,” said Williams, a former Disney and Maker Studios exec. “For our partners, it’s an opportunity to capture what kids are truly interested in and passionate about today.”
The first format is “Ultimate Mishmash,” which strings together best-of clips from Pocket.watch’s stable of YouTubers into 22-minute episodes. The initial series, drawing from some 10,000 YouTube videos, are individually dedicated to five creator partners: Ryan ToysReview — a channel starring the titular 7-year-old toy-unboxer and his family that has more than 25 billion views to date — toy-review channel HobbyKidsTV, EvanTubeHD, JillianTubeHD and video-gamer CaptainSparklez.
The startup also has produced 15 episodes of “Pocket.watch Challenge Squad,” an original half-hour series based on the popular YouTube challenge format. The show features the same cast as the Pocket.watch-operated YouTube channel of the same name, which now has over 130,000 subscribers. In the “Challenge Squad” TV series, produced at the company’s studio in Culver City, Calif., the team engages in different playful challenges, like human bowling and an Oreo taste-test.
Hulu has licensed a total of 90 episodes from Pocket.watch on a nonexclusive basis. Those comprise 15 episodes each of the five “Ultimate Mishmash” series and the “Pocket.watch Challenge Squad” set.
Amazon Prime Video carries a selection of about 40 episodes of the new Pocket.watch shows in the U.S., through the ecommerce giant’s self-publishing program. Pocket.watch receives a cut of Prime subscription revenue, based on viewing time. With Amazon, Williams’ key interest is in the metrics: “We want to get back data on minutes streamed and how these shows perform relative to other programming.”
Pocket.watch didn’t approach Netflix about licensing the long-form shows, according to Williams. Hulu was the preferred partner because it’s U.S.-only, and Netflix typically seeks worldwide rights. “Our model is very oriented to being able to sell [the shows] internationally,” Williams said.
In addition to “Ultimate Mishmash” and “Challenge Squad,” the company has begun production on a sixth new TV series: “Pocket.watch Digital Superstars.” That will mash up popular videos from its YouTube creator affiliates and the Challenge Squad in 22-minute episodes hosted by Bubbles, a kid-friendly dog puppet. The first 26 episodes will be available for distribution this winter.
Paramount Pictures Worldwide Television Licensing & Distribution will package all 116 episodes of Pocket.watch’s six-show lineup and pitch them to non-U.S. distributors, starting at Mipcom next week in Cannes.
“My clients around the world are trying to reach today’s kids and young adults — and they’re hard to find,” said Dan Cohen, president of worldwide TV licensing and distribution at Paramount. “Kids are on YouTube, engaged with personalities that Chris has signed, and bringing [international networks and streaming services] content they can use in a traditional space will be very attractive for them.”
Viacom, Paramount’s parent, led a $15 million funding round in Pocket.watch this summer. “That triggered the light bulb for me,” Cohen said. “As soon as Viacom invested, I called [Williams] to see how we could work together,” adding that Paramount doesn’t have much kids’ television content in its portfolio.
Down the line, Pocket.watch is eyeing additional TV shows adapted from YouTube, including more “Mishmash” installments and new formats (e.g., a potential series based on the “try not to laugh” genre). “The ability to create more of these is something we can do fairly easily,” Williams said. “This is an incremental revenue stream, and ultimately one we believe will scale really well.”
Conceptually, the “Ultimate Mishmash” is akin to “America’s Funniest Videos” or Jukin Media’s FailArmy series compiling viral-video hits. Ryan ToysReview’s “Mishmash” is hosted by Combo Panda, an animated game-playing character that’s part of Ryan’s YouTube network. CaptainSparkelz, the internet handle of gamer Jordan Maron, hosts his own series; the others are presented by “dot,” a new animated character created by Pocket.watch (a reference to the dot in its name).
The new Pocket.watch TV shows are in addition to other long-form projects the company has in development, including a live-action kids sitcom created by and starring Kenan Thompson (of “Saturday Night Live”) called “Skoogle” with Nickelodeon.
And the company is now in the merchandise biz: Last month, the company debuted Ryan’s World, a line of Pocket.watch-branded toys and apparel from Ryan ToysReview, which launched at Walmart stores nationwide and has expanded to Target and other retailers.
Pocket.watch also is about to drop its first book. “Watch this Book!,” with an Oct. 23 release date, is the first title under its imprint with Simon & Schuster’s Simon Spotlight. The tome promises a behind-the-videos look into the lives of Ryan ToysReview, HobbyKidsTV, EvanTubeHD and JillianTubeHD, with an introduction by CaptainSparklez.