Viacom has bought VidCon. Will the media conglomerate turn the YouTube-focused confab into a soulless, corporatized event? Or will VidCon have more resources at its disposal to become bigger and better?
YouTube creators expressed a range of reactions to the deal, officially announced Wednesday, with a mix of congrats and uncertainty — as well as chagrin that Big Media was co-opting another corner of free-wheeling internet culture.
“Not sure this will change anything about VidCon… or then again, maybe everything,” Marques Brownlee, the vlogger behind YouTube tech reviews channel MKBHD, tweeted Monday after Variety broke the news that it was close to closing the deal.
Viacom said VidCon will continue to operated independently. But others were disappointed in the outcome, with some criticizing VidCon founders Hank and John Green (aka the “Vlogbrothers”) for giving up their independence. “YouTube community being sold out to big media again,” commented Mark Dice, a conservative media commentator with 1.2 million subscribers for his YouTube channel.
Tay Zonday, the YouTuber known as the “Chocolate Rain Guy,” suggested that the media conglomerate would build a VidCon theme park à la Disneyland. “@Viacom buying @vidcon is logical if they want to build a permanent digital-influence focused theme-park/destination,” he tweeted.
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Meanwhile, wags noted the similarity between the Viacom and VidCon names as making the tie-up inevitable. And several pointed out the irony of Viacom’s deal for VidCon, a decade after suing Google and YouTube for copyright infringement.
Notwithstanding VidCon’s origins as a grassroots YouTuber meetup, the event has been taken over by corporations, starting with YouTube’s perennial sponsorship of the conference. It’s been a magnet in recent years by Hollywood and media companies seeking to connect with Gen Z audiences.
Sponsors of the 2017 event included NBC, UTA, Disney Digital Network, and Univision, and included screenings of Universal Pictures’ “Despicable Me 3” and Disney’s “Cars 3.” Facebook, too, stepped up its presence at VidCon in Anaheim last year.
In 2014, in a move to boost VidCon’s management team, the Green brothers hired Jim Louderback, former GM of Discovery Digital Networks and CEO of digital-video startup Revision3, to run VidCon as its CEO.