A platform of one’s own: Video Game High School takes control

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For a few years now, creators have relied on portals like YouTube and Blip for both hosting and discovery — but third-party hosting means ceding some amount of control over your content. And as the space evolves, other strategies are beginning to emerge.

When the web series Video Game High School made headlines with the enthusiastic response to its Kickstarter campaign, there was no denying that the scripted comedy fantasy about a school for video game fanatics would find an audience online — especially given that it was co-created by Brandon Laatsch and Freddie Wong, AKA FreddieW, who has built a strong fanbase on YouTube with his blend of comedy, VFX and gaming references.

But Video Game High School wasn’t your ordinary web series release — because it drove the launch of the independent content platform Rocket Jump.

Building upon Wong’s pre-established audience online, and also drawing content from creators like Corridor Digital and Feast of Fiction, Rocket Jump uses a proprietary video player to host content for, according to the site’s About page, “people willing to stand on that razor’s edge of the envelope that gets pushed outside the box.”

Video Game High School was Rocket Jump’s first big release, with episodes released first to the Rocket Jump site, and then, a week later, uploaded to YouTube. And the strategy paid off. Numbers provided to us by the Collective (and independently verified by Visible Measures) showed that the series has so far, between YouTube and Rocket Jump, received 31.5 million views.

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And while 24.4 million of those views — approximately two-thirds — came from YouTube, the remaining 6.9 million came from Rocket Jump. Most importantly, episode-to-episode, YouTube viewership remained consistent, but on Rocket Jump, viewership grew as the series progressed — increasing audience throughout the course of the campaign.

“We were able to drive real audience and grow that audience on a proprietary platform — without cannibalizing our YouTube audience. In that case it was a tremendous success,” Dan Weinstein of Collective Digital Studio, which co-produced and co-distributed the series, said via phone.

Rocket Jump, according to Weinstein, isn’t meant to replace the team’s YouTube presence — instead, “It’s about expanding their brand and providing a different level of engagement for their audience.”

But building an independent platform for their content has a number of advantages for the Rocket Jump team. First, it means that unlike YouTube, they have a greater level of control over the advertising appearing with their content: Rocket Jump videos currently include video pre-rolls as well as banner ads.

In addition, the Collective — which represents Rocket Jump in dealings with advertisers and sponsors — has a clearly defined property to offer. “Brands know who Freddie is,” Weinstein said. “Add in Rocket Jump, something [that’s] owned 100 percent, and it’s another tool in the arsenal.”

But it’s not just the FreddieW show, either: Like other online video brands built around a central personality, such as Chris Hardwick’s Nerdist empire, Rocket Jump has the potential to grow into something much larger than one person. “It was meant to be bigger than the FreddieW brand,” Weinstein said. “They built it to be bigger than themselves.”

The Rocket Jump strategy wouldn’t necessarily work for anyone, especially the lesser-known independent creator. “It takes a large dedicated fanbase to migrate the experience to an owned and operated website,” Weinstein said. But for the right content, there might be life outside of YouTube.

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