Connect With Us

BUSINESS INSIDER: A media company built on YouTube influencers now sees TV talent as a much safer bet

Mike Shields for Business Insider,
tia and tamera 1994
u Jeff Kravitz/FilmMagic, Inc via Getty Images
  • The web video firm Kin Community had previously focused on representing and creating content with digital talent, primarily YouTube stars.
  • But now the company is looking to launch new digital web series with more established professional talent such as former sitcom star Tia Mowry and Cheetah Girls performer Adrienne Houghton.
  • The idea is for Kin to own more of its content while providing advertisers a safe alternative on platforms like YouTube and Facebook.

Tia Mowry is a major social media influencer. She’s got 5 million Instagram followers, 5.6 million Facebook fans and another 2 million Twitter followers.

But she’s far from a digital native. In fact she’s a “TGIF” native.

Long before Mowry was a YouTube creator, she was a legitimate TV star, as she and her twin sister headlined the ABC sitcom “Sister Sister,” which was part of the network’s family-friendly “TGIF” programming block in the 1990s.

Now, the web video production/ad company Kin Community is making Mowry and others like her the centerpiece of a new strategy aimed at building media brands on social platforms with more professional talent.

In her case, Mowry never stopped working in the TV business, doing shows on Cooking Channel and the long running BET series “The Game.”

But over the past few years she’s really taken to social media. And Kin sees her as the kind of talent that won’t send CEOs and chief marketing officers into a panic any time soon over what sort of content their ads are alongside.

Indeed, Mowry’s apt to share with her fans favorite recipes and beauty tips, and it’s hard to imagine her going on an off color rant or making some poorly thought out Hitler joke. She’s also accustomed to showing up on time, collaborating with marketers, and taking feedback from management, all pluses compared to some more unpredictable digital creators.

 

Reinventing and reexamining digital influencers

Kin is one of a dozen or more companies that had looked to build businesses around native digital talent over the past several years. These so called “multi channel networks”(MCNs) looked to connect brands to a new generation of consumer by rolling up deals to represent tons of YouTube channels, before eventually branching off into other channels.

But over time, the economics of such businesses proved sub-optimal (as with any business built on another company’s platform), and the talent unpredictable (see former Maker studios talent PewDiePie, who’s been dinged for several insensitive jokes).

At the same time, many A-list stars have proven to be less than skilled in digital media.Shaquille O’Neal’s one time YouTube channel comes to mind.

So Kin is trying to forge a middle ground. It’s partnering with established yet a few-rungs-short-of-superstar talent who have shown an ability to churn out digital content that resonates, while building new brands.

For example, last fall Kin and Mowry colaunched “Tia Mowry’s Quick Fix” on YouTube and Facebook. The episodic lifestyle show, which features everything from Mowry making chicken and waffles to styling kids’ curly hair, has reeled in over 300,000 YouTube subscribers and over 900,000 Facebook followers.. And Kin says that episodes are drawing audiences consistently that rival similarly themed cable shows.

“The MCN world was a way to scale,” Kin CEO Michael Wayne told Buiness Insider. “But it was more or less talent management. And you end up managing influencers who have a lot of other people working with them.”

Kin isn’t completely ditching working with digital native talent. But the focus going forward will be on owning its own channels and shows, and becoming a full on programmer, said Wayne

“In addition to Mowry’s channel, Kin recent rolled out the beauty and fashion-focused “All Things Adrienne” with former Disney Channel and Cheetah Girls performer Adrienne Houghton, and projects are in the works with “Dancing with the Stars” dancer Derek Hough and reality stars Nick and Vanessa Lachey.

The plan is to create seven more owned and operated Kin brands by the end of the year. “We might even accelerate that,” said Wayne. Kin sees numerous ways to weave advertisers and e-commerce into these

The key will be to find mainstream talent that has fallen hard for social media. Mowry fits the bill

She said that as a kid, she remembers craving a connection with stars like Leonardo DiCaprio. “I was obsessed with Leo,” she said. “I wanted to know, ‘What is he eating? What is he doing right now?’ And now social media kind of opened that.

With the new show, “people look at me as their girlfriend,” said Mowry.