Though many people, especially media executives in traditional media, think that the new generation of children and teenagers have very short attention spans and simply flip through their smartphones not caring about the kind of content they consume, that's not necessarily the case.
Kids of today crave for high quality shows and content too. The only thing is that there are limited shows catering to these demographics with the kind of quality that say something like the MCU has.
Most shows oriented toward teenagers have the same boring tropes. And those that try to shake things up, have skewed perceptions of what teenagers of today are really like, what they value, what their habits are, and what kind of content they want to consume.
Fishman thought teenage girls were being fed “empty calories” rather than high-quality narrative shows. Historically, they were limited to shows by Nickelodeon and Disney — geared toward younger eyes — while MTV skewed older, says Carter Hansen, who founded Different Entertainment and previously worked at Generation Z media company Awesomeness. And for a generation increasingly literate with social platforms and distant from traditional TV channels, there was “nobody creating content in ways they wanted to consume it” back in the early 2010s, Hansen adds.
People assume Gen Zers have 20-second attention spans, content to flick through Instagram feeds and watch stories that disappear. Fishman diagnosed them differently: If you serve a whole generation with disposable assets, he argues, you’ll train them to throw things away. This climate spurred Fishman to launch Brat, a YouTube-first digital production company, in 2017, with partner Darren Lachtman.
The concept of Brat's shows has been modeled after the MCU, in which characters' storylines overlap with other shows such that viewers can get to see them interact with each other. This would also let them expand the direction in which they take the narratives.
Despite casting social media influencers without any acting experience, Brat has seen quite some success with at least 4 billion minutes consumed by the audience on Youtube to date. Each episode has at least 50,000 concurrent viewers while the channel itself has garnered 3.1 million subscribers.
The shows are meant to occupy the space between casual vlogs and scarcer high-budget Netflix series — as Brat seeks a piece of the fast-declining traditional television market, with its nearly $70 billion in ad dollars.
Now, this is not to say that Brat won't be facing any challenges. Though it is true that Youtube's platform has good reach, that doesn't mean Brat has dominance over the market. And they still have to contend with traditional media and streaming services like Netflix who have also been churning out good original shows aggressively.
Brat is operating in an increasingly crowded, or “unprecedentedly fragmented” space, as Napoli puts it. And Brat’s use of influencers is hardly breakthrough, as other media companies like Awesomeness — founded years earlier in 2012 — leveraged already-popular YouTubers.
We are yet to see whether Brat's strategy will pay off in the long run.
(Image credit: Zoe Valentine/Brat)