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It was the kind of viral stunt that most marketers only dream about.
In late June a mural popped up along Los Angeles’ Melrose Avenue, in front of which only the Insta-famous with over 20,000 social media followers could take photographs. A few tweets about the stunt and suddenly it had gone viral, become the subject of several media reports and drawn the ire of more than a few online influencers.
But what should have been the perfect launchpad for web series Like and Subscribe was disrupted when, just two days later, Verizon announced that it would shutter free video app Go90, where the Dillon Francis vehicle was set to debut in mid-July.
“We had to scramble and regroup and figure out what we were going to do,” recalls executive producer Kevin Kusatsu. The team behind the project, including creator Jack Wagner, ultimately decided to go ahead with a prescheduled premiere of the show because, per Kusatsu, “we couldn’t get the deposit back” on the venue. That’s when a Funny or Die employee saw the project, a satire about the culture of online influencers, and a plan began to form to find the project a new home with the digital comedy brand.
Now, nearly five months after producers staged their mural stunt, Like and Subscribe is being released on Funny or Die’s digital properties, including its website, YouTube and other social channels. The series, which went live on the morning of Nov. 13, stars Francis as Skyy Goldwynne, the most powerful manager in Hollywood who, after he receives negative press for representing a group of influencers, decides to lock his digital clients in a house together and film what happens. It was directed by duo The DADs.
“They had this great show that we were already fans of,” says Funny or Die vp digital Brian Toombs. “Having Funny or Die behind the show now helps get it the exposure it deserves.”
Adds Kusatsu, “They just get what we’re all about. The transition has been seamless.”
As the digital industry has faced consolidation, a number of creatives have found themselves without a home for their projects. The Nov. 6 news that Defy Media is shutting down, for instance, has created uncertainty around the future of YouTube brands Smosh and Clevver. While Funny or Die had its own bumps this year — the company conducted a round of layoffs at the beginning of 2018 citing “tough challenges” for digital media businesses — it is continuing to produce and support online projects in addition to its slate of film and TV shows.
“We want good comedy content to find an audience,” says Toombs, who says that the company will pick up already-produced projects as it makes sense for the company. “We think we can be a conduit for that.”
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