News Corp's IGN, Shine Group Partner for YouTube Video Game Channel START (Exclusive Q&A)

YouTube Logo - H 2011

YouTube Logo - H 2011

New slate of broadcast-quality shows will launch in early 2012 focusing on the gaming demographic

As part of YouTube’s new investment in entertainment channels, News Corp-owned IGN Entertainment has partnered with Elisabeth Murdoch's Shine Group company Reveille to develop a new slate of broadcast-quality shows aimed at the growing video game demographic. The series, which will range from short-format to television-length, will debut in early 2012 on START, YouTube’s new video game channel produced by IGN.

IGN has attracted over 1 billion views from its current YouTube offerings, but is now taking production to the next step with the intent of seeing some content migrate beyond the Internet. START will launch with new shows like Celebrity Assassin, IGN Pro Gaming, The Next Game Boss and Game Over. Roy Bahat, president of IGN Entertainment, talks about START in this exclusive interview.

The Hollywood Reporter: What are your plans with START?

Roy Bahat: We believe there is a gap in entertaining content about games on a big screen. Games are the number one leisure activity for guys under the age of 35. Ninety-one percent of kids under the age of 17 play games. We believe that games, as a genre, should be represented with what you see on TV around sports, music, film and sci-fi and fantasy. There should be hit television content about games and we just see this YouTube channel as a great chance to experiment and search for that.

THR: What type of length are you looking at for this type of content?

Bahat: The length is going to be longer than what you typically might see for the Web all the way up to what might work for television. Some of the stuff is going to be seven, eight minutes long.  Some of it might be twenty-two minutes long or even longer.

THR: What’s the rollout plan in terms of when people would start being able to see content?

Bahat: In the beginning, that’s something we’re doing in partnership with YouTube. As soon as the channels roll out we’ll be there with them. It’s in the beginning of the new calendar year, basically.

THR: What shows will you be launching with?

Bahat: The Next Game Boss competition series is something we’re going to expand on when we launch. It has a couple of episodes on IGN already and it’s a reality show that allows gamers to get a job in the video game industry. We will be doing some games news and stuff like that with Game Over, it’s just not going to be the predominant thing on the channel. It will be just mixed in among other things like Celebrity Assassin, where celebrities pick up a game controller and talk about their new projects, and IGN Pro League, which will focus on eSports.

THR: For games news, will it be similar to what we see on the Internet today?

Bahat: It’s an expanded version of what we see on the Internet probably with somewhat different pacing. We’re going to be fundamentally presuming you’re watching it on a big screen and leaning back. We’re going to try to focus on making it that kind of content.

THR: What kind of production quality will these shows have?

Bahat: One of the things we’ve tried really hard to do at IGN is do stuff that’s quick so we can capture footage here in the office when somebody wants to riff about a game or say something funny, but doing it at quality that looks great. What’s great is that every year the difference between a Flip Cam and something that takes reasonably well-lit HD video, is actually not that big anymore. The intent is for it all to look great so that the content makes brands feel comfortable associating their name with. That’s not true of user-generated content out there or of all the stuff that’s shot at lower production quality. That’s not to say we’re going to have ten-person crews. We’re just going to focus on doing things that look great, but are fast and easy to do that brands would want to be associated with.

THR: How do you see this content differing from what we’ve seen Machinima do with YouTube in recent years?

Bahat: We’ve also worked very closely with YouTube. We have a billion views to date on YouTube.  I’d say You Tube is a platform that’s been working in a pretty fair way with all partners. The content that YouTube is now funding is going to be different from everything that’s currently on the platform because there’s going to be more dollars going into the content. That means you’ll probably see in these channels less of the sole content creator doing gameplay commentary and more things that have Hollywood-caliber talent working on them. There’s great stuff being produced by sole independent content guys and we love working with them, but I think you’ll see a different kind of professional caliber of talent at work.

THR: Who are you working with from Hollywood on these projects?

Bahat: Our partner in producing this channel is Shine Group and they’re the makers of The Office, Master Chef and The Biggest Loser. Our intent in doing this was to bring television caliber content to this opportunity.