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How ’90s stars like Tia Mowry are having a comeback with shows on Facebook and YouTube

Michelle Castillo for CNBC,
Tia Mowry attends a Back-To-School block party at The Park at The Grove on August 25, 2018 in Los Angeles.

Tibrina Hobson | Getty Images: Tia Mowry attends a Back-To-School block party at The Park at The Grove on August 25, 2018 in Los Angeles.

Tia Mowry built her career on television, from ’90s sitcom “Sister, Sister” to reality TV series “Tia & Tamera.” She even had her own Cooking Channel show, “Tia Mowry at Home.”

But for her latest project “Tia Mowry’s Quick Fix,” the actress took her talents to FacebookYouTube and other online platforms.

“Working in the business for over 25 years, the thing about network television, you’re fitting or trying to fit into their thing or into their umbrella,” Mowry told CNBC, in an interview. “You have to mold yourself and conform yourself to fit into their brand, and I realized soon I don’t want to really have to do that. I just want to be 100 percent myself, and I know my audience more than anybody.”

“Quick Fix” consists of 10- to 12-minutes episodes about life hacks that Mowry has picked up from being a working, multitasking mom, whether it’s a cooking recipe or parenting tip. She’s built up 1.1 million followers on Facebook and more than 390,000 subscribers on YouTube.

The most successful episode, about Mowry’s newborn baby girl, has been viewed 12.7 million times on Facebook, and still gets about 500,000 views a week.

“We are now in a generation where everything is on the smartphone,” Mowry said. “You have women who aren’t just staying home watching television. You have women who are on the go who are working and multitasking the hell out of things. They need something that is tangible and is not so time consuming.”

In short, “when you are a busy mom you don’t have time to watch an hour of something to figure out what to cook,” she said.

“Quick Fix” is among a slate of reality and competition shows that Kin, an entertainment company, is making in partnership with actors, musicians and celebrities who got started on television. They’re now bypassing TV and going directly to their social media followings, while making money in the process.

All the Kin lifestyle shows together generated between $500,000 and $1 million in revenue in first year, with the majority coming from its first project “Quick Fix” according to a person familiar with the matter who asked not to be named because the numbers are confidential. With more series debuting, year two projections are in the multimillions of dollars, they added.

“It’s undeniable that these talents have a very powerful direct connection with audiences,” said Michael Wayne, CEO of Kin. “Most of them have built large social followings. They use it for promotion or to share with their audience things that are going on with their lives. But they haven’t looked at creating a business around that direct connection.”

In addition to “Quick Fix,” Kin produced “All Things Adrienne,”with singer and actress Adrienne Bailon, known for her work in girl groups 3LW and The Cheetah Girls, in April. “Life in Motion with Derek Hough,” featuring the performer from “Dancing with the Stars,” was added this year, along with “Heart of the Batter with Jordin Sparks,” who started out in “American Idol,” and “Beauty School Knockout with Vanessa Lachey,” hosted by the model and television personality.

Kin’s latest series, “Engaged with Jojo and Jordan,” debuted in early October, featuring a couple from ABC’s “The Bachelorette.”

The shows launch on Facebook or YouTube and eventually make their way to Instagram TV, Amazon Prime and other places. The goal is to have 20 shows by 2019, with some episodes going longer than 20 minutes, Wayne said. The company has its own studio, equipment and teams so it can keep costs low while maintaining TV quality.

“We want to be the next generation cable network,” Wayne said.

 

In addition to greater control over their projects, the entertainers also have a bigger stake in the profits than in traditional TV deals, Wayne added. Shows make money through brand integrations and affiliate links on Amazon as well as commercials. There’s also an opportunity to sign licensing deals online and potentially get programs syndicated on TV.

Kin may even get into events in the future.

“They’re drawn to being a part of something that looks as good as TV,” Wayne said. “It’s not surprising we’re getting great viewership. The consumers want it. I think the platforms want it. The stars are aligning for these type of shows.”

One downside to the online medium is the speed and quantity of negative feedback that shows receive, which can include bullying. But it can also be used to find out which investments are worth making, Wayne said. The goal is to recoup investment and make each show profitable in the first six to 12 months — and if it doesn’t work, there are no obligations to continue, he said.

“I’ve been in this business ever since I was 12 years old,” Mowry said. “At the end of the day, you do not own it. It’s not your baby. The whole thing about the whole digital space is there’s more room for that. The social media gods allow you to have more control of your baby, because it’s 100 percent me.”