Freddie Wong’s Video Game High School is back on YouTube for a short final season: The show, which is as close to a traditional teen TV drama as YouTube shows will ever get, debuted a first of six final episodes on YouTube Monday, where new episodes will follow every week. Fans that can’t wait that long are able to buy the entire season via Vimeo’s on-demand platform.
For the uninitiated, Video Game High School is the traditional teen dramedy, set in a world where kids learn about professional video gaming in high school. It’s a great show, even if you are not a big gamer, and it’s been a hit with [company]YouTube[/company]’s audience, clocking more than 84 million views with its first two seasons.
That’s why YouTube has been happy to lend a helping hand with the show, letting Wong and his team shoot part of the show at the company’s YouTube Space LA studio and promoting the show with an ad campaign that included everything from billboards and bus stop ads to promoted tweets.
For YouTube, Video Game High School has been a kind of blueprint for its future — a show that looks enough like TV to attract significant interest from brands willing to spend premium ad dollars, but that’s also native to YouTube, produced by creators that have grown up on the platform and know its audience.
However, Video Game High School is also an interesting case study for the monetization of YouTube content. Wong and his team have from the beginning tapped into crowdfunding to finance the production of the show, raising close to $900,000 for the third season alone.
And for season one, Wong’s team actually developed a divide and conquer release strategy, releasing episodes both on YouTube as well as on RocketJump.com, with the goal of striking direct deals with advertisers and eventually building RocketJump into a platform for others looking to supplement their YouTube income as well, complete with a proprietary video player. Two years later, little of that is left — RocketJump is simply hosting YouTube embeds, and Video Game High School is getting some extra cash through VOD and syndication deals.
For YouTube, this development has to be reassuring. Over the last two or three years, a lot has been written about the impending exodus of content producers from the platform, with many musing that Facebook, Yahoo or even the Disney-owned Maker Studios and its Blip platform could one day compete with the video site. But to-date, YouTube has succeeded at keeping producers in the fold, and companies willing to experiment with ad-supported video distribution outside of YouTube have quickly learned that the site’s massive audience is just too hard to beat.