Despite the odd police bust at a mansion party, YouTubers have struggled like many other content creators amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Though Hollywood has gingerly proceeded with production — only to see subsequent shutdowns — prolific YouTubers face their own restrictions when it comes to filming beyond their front-facing cameras.
Play.Works, a 10-year old company designed to bring social content back to the family living room, launched a linear channel two months ago that programs continuous streams of digital content and helps diversify revenue for creators.
The platform works via connected television sets — which have seen a major uptick in viewership thanks to global quarantine. Collab, a network of 300 YouTube channels, counted 34% of viewers watching its content on Smart TV’s in the third quarter of 2020, per Digiday. That’s up from 27% in Q4 of 2019. The network also found that viewers watch longer on television sets, some 7.26 minutes versus 3.61 minutes on mobile.
Founded by 25-year TV industry vet Jonathan Boltax, Play.Works has linear channel deals with the Plex streaming network and TV manufacturer Vizio. The connected app is also available through mainstream digital interfaces like Comcast, Amazon Fire, and Roku. The platform estimates a reach of 200 million viewers outside the YouTube interface.
Content partners include top-subscribed channels Annoying Orange (10.5 million), The King of Random (12.5 million), The Bee Family (9.17 million), whose videos are syndicated with no additional effort and revenue shared at 40%. They also have deals with celebrities including Mike Tyson and Olympian Adam Rippon, as well as CAA client Mark Terzo.
Play.Works is geared toward Gen Z and millennials, and also programs a sister platform geared entirely toward family content, named Tankee. That division has content partners including Big B Statz (3 million subs), Thinknoodles (6.9 million subs) and StacyPlays (2 million subs).
Boltax, who spent years at NBC in research and development, thinks a return to the linear format is a natural expansion for digital content.
“TV is obviously in this huge transition, and consumers of YouTube are not differentiating between mobile, desktop, and now connected TVs,” Boltax said. “When we look at partners, we look for what is just flat-out great TV.”