The TV tycoons you may have missed

 

What do you need to run a TV channel? Not much these days - get a cheap video camera and access to the internet, and you can soon be a TV tycoon, albeit on a very small scale. But I've been meeting two channels run by young British entrepreneurs who are showing the TV establishment the way to connect audiences and grow businesses in a hurry.

SB.TV

The first is 21-year-old Jamal Edwards. He grew up on a west London housing estate and left school with few qualifications, but he now has a business called SB.TV, offering all sorts of original video content on YouTube and making some serious money from it.

When I popped into his recently acquired offices in Ladbroke Grove, where three of his staff were hard at work, he told me how it got started:

"When I was 14 or 15, I got a video camera for Christmas and I started going out on my estate and filming lots of rappers - and from there it snowballed. I just kept filming every day."

21-year-old Jamal Edwards talks about the lifestyle TV channel he set up on YouTube

While working by day in a clothes shop, by night he taught himself about making videos and running a business by watching online tutorials. Eventually a cheque arrived from YouTube for the revenue from adverts placed around his videos. "I thought yeah I can give up working at Topman and make it a business."

The channel has had over 100 million views, and Jamal is very proud that every bit of the content has been filmed by his team. Some artists that have been featured on SB.TV from Jessie J to Ed Sheeran have seen their profiles boosted - for others it's been the only way to get their music to an audience. Jamal says the key for his business is to build a community, and respond to what its members want.

Google has already featured Jamal Edwards in an advert, and mainstream TV and music firms are watching SB.TV very closely, desperate to understand the connection it has with its audience.

I would not be surprised to see an approach from a potential buyer, but Jamal says he's just concentrating on growing his channel: "I'm just trying to think of new fresh ideas, keep it buzzing. It's gonna go worldwide man!" he told me. "Music, fashion, sport comedy, just gonna build it up."

Yogscast

Unless you're a teenage gamer, you may never have heard of Yogscast, but it is an even bigger video phenomenon than SB.TV. Much bigger, in fact, with one billion views to its YouTube channel so far, and three million people tuning in each day.

I first spotted it when browsing through the "most viewed" section on YouTube. It seems to be packed with videos about games, all of them accompanied by a slightly eccentric commentary by two young men.

"That's Simon and Lewis from Yogscast, dad," my teenage online game-obsessed son explained, in a voice which suggested that anyone who hadn't heard of them must have been asleep for 100 years.

So I went to meet Lewis Brindley and Simon Lane in their shiny new offices in Bristol, global headquarters of a business which has only recently moved out of their respective bedrooms.

Rory Cellan-Jones goes behind the scenes with Yogscast

Lewis was working as a freelance journalist four years ago and played online games with a group of people including Simon. "We would all group together to kill virtual dragons."

He decided that the entertaining chat that happened during the games needed to be put online, so he started making videos featuring him and Simon - who he hadn't even met in real life at that stage.

Their double act soon proved popular, especially when they began to focus on Minecraft, a creative game which allows players to build their own worlds and adventures. Then came a key moment: "I woke up on Christmas Day in 2010 and we were the most viewed video on YouTube," Lewis explained. "That was when it hit me that this was maybe worth quitting our jobs for and having a good go at it."

Mojang's Minecraft videogame Minecraft allows players to manipulate a randomly generated landscape

They have certainly had a good go. Yogscast has assembled a team of more than a dozen people who can all make and edit videos in their new studios in Bristol. Every day, they upload at least one video, with an average length of 15 minutes, and they are working on improving the production values. "If you don't produce good quality videos, then people won't come back," says Lewis. "We listen very carefully to what our community says."

They are building a network of people making similar videos, and there is an exciting new project, their own video game. Using the crowdfunding site Kickstarter they have raised over $500,000 to create Yogventures, in collaboration with a Los Angeles based game developer. It sounds rather like Minecraft, and if it succeeds on that scale when it launches next year, then Yogscast will be a serious player in the games world as well as in online video.

So what are their ambitions? "I want to be the next Rupert Murdoch," Simon told me - though I'm not entirely clear how serious he was. But Lewis, the straight man in the comedy duo, seems pretty focussed on expanding Yogscast and making increasingly professional video content.

But has either of these businesses really got a chance to make an impact on TV? When I spoke to the respected media analyst Theresa Wise she freely admitted she'd never heard of either of them - but was impressed by what I told her about their ambitions.

She warned, however, that this was a hits-driven business: "There are two issues - keeping generating the hits and convincing people you're still cool. When dads start to like you there's a danger that people switch to other things."

It is, in her words, a "fickle old business". But wouldn't it be great to see Jamal Edwards and the Yogscast duo Simon and Lewis prove that in the internet age Britain can create TV tycoons with staying power?

 
Rory Cellan-Jones Article written by Rory Cellan-Jones Rory Cellan-Jones Technology correspondent

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  • rate this
    +9

    Comment number 26.

    "When I spoke to the respected media analyst Theresa Wise she freely admitted she'd never heard of either of them"

    One Billion views, 11 million a week, people know who Lewis and Simon are, and not just kids and "computer nerds", they have a very broad fanbase from their highly popular podcast (Yogpod). Just goes to show you how out of touch many of these "respected media analysts" really are.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 25.

    I quite like your work Rory but the end of this made me laugh, Yogscast etc don't need TV, traditional TV is slowing declining, VOD tv online such as youtube is pretty much the future. When the next generation want to watch a show they don't look at a tv guide to see when bbc2 are showing it they go online and watch it immediately.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 24.

    also i am Dave! yognaught and I have the balls!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 23.

    I am 17 and have been watching the yogscast for about 2 years now, and I have been listening to their pod cast. I can safely say that keeps me checking you tube every day. this is because on my opinion the content they put out like other you tubers, eg totalhalibut. Is better then anything that is on TV

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 22.

    So glad the Yogscast have some recognition. Also, the awkward moment when the BBC's recording camera is lower quality than that of the people they are interviewing :| But yeah, great stuff- and so soon after the 2 millionth subscriber on YouTube :D

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 21.

    Simon and Lewis are an inspiration to a generation of post-Call of Duty/Hardcore/stat obsessing gamers promoting fun, enjoyable story driven role playing styles through the use of Minecraft and Podcasts. They keep the British cynicism and humour culture firmly intact and help promote the UK abroad. Now the 17th most subbed channel on Youtube and rising, they're on their way to conquering the web.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 20.

    The Yogscast are very popular in the gaming community. More because of the humor than because of their gamin skill both of which are important in any YouTube channel though!

    I am Dave! Yognaught and I have the balls

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 19.

    Me and my boyfriend have been following Si and Lewis since they emerged, amongst others like total biscuit, etc.. We watch youtube like a TV because our interests are simply not catered for on TV. (we're mid twenties just out of interest, it's not all 13 year old boys) I disagree with the woman at the end, I don't care whats "cool". I just want to watch things that relate to my humor/interests :)

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 18.

    "When dads start to like you there's a danger that people switch to other things."

    Wrong. There are many many older gamers who follow these channels. "Cool" doesn't come into it, we are nerds/geeks! Kind of shows what little grasp anyone outside of the loop has on the future of gaming media.

    Also I am Dave! Yognaught and I have the Balls!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 17.

    It's a good thing that the Yogscast are getting some mainstream recognition. They deserve it!

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 16.

    These people are filling a gap in the market. Gaming is under-represented in the UK media as companies fail to grasp its impact. YouTube has far fewer restrictions on what content can be put up and is flooded with submissions every day. The good stuff floats to the top and quickly gains recognition. The Game Station, Yogscast's partner company, will be a big player in the years to come.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 15.

    Nice to see Simon and Lewis getting some mainstream recognition, they certainly deserve it.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 14.

    I am Dave! Yognaught and I have the Balls!

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 13.

    I watch youtube more than i watch TV and these guys channels are a highlight of my day. In addition they are world famous not just UK which i feel gives them an even stronger ability to survive.

    Much love to the yogscast!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 12.

    I was wondering what the copyright implications were of filming other people's games as a business? Otherwise, great channel. Their playthrough of Portal 2 is also particularly awesome.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 11.

    I am Dave! Yognau(gh)t and I have the balls!

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 9.

    I dont watch TV:

    1) Nothing worth watching - Sky is just as bad.
    2) Because of 1) I read, fish, work, internet.
    3) Because of 1) I dont have a TV license any more - pointless.
    4) Youtube is not very good, advertising again Rory ?
    5) Rory, I dont think you know what you're talking about and we both know you're biased.
    6) I now get huge enjoyment from my environment.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 8.

    Just avoid having Fearne Cotton presenting any programme and you'll be fine.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 7.

    I am Dave! Yognaut and I have the balls!

 

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