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

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  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 46.

    The title should have been entertainment tycoons the media experts missed as is the use of the word tv to portray broadcast entertainment, the tv is an old business model that will not survive. I am a 37 year old dad who has spent countless evenings with my son watching yogscast he has yet to ask me to sit down and watch any of the reality programs

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 45.

    I watch far, far more youtube than TV and i am in my forties. People watch this content because whole sectors of the community (those with a functioning brain and conscience or interests outside sport and estimating the value of houses) are barely catered for by television.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 44.

    Many younger people such as myself exclusively torrent TV programs and watch youtube. I've not touched a TV set in eight years now. I've not seen a single advert in that long either. Most of my friends are exactly the same.

    Regular television is filled with dull adverts and even duller programming, largely catering towards old people and stupid people.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 43.

    The problem with this alternative media though?

    It's all 'meme, meme, meme' ;-)

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 42.

    Worrying how the so called experts are only just picking up on this now. It has been going on for years.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 41.

    Television executives world wide could learn a multitude of lessons from the professional Youtubers out there. Yogscast and, my personal favourite, Machinima are two channels that cater exclusively for the huge casual gamer market; a section of society still shunned by mainstream media. Youtube allows direct audience feedback which has to be the secret of success, rather than an "expert" opinion.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 40.

    I'm 34 and I like the Yogscast and TotalBiscuit because tv doesn't cater to my tastes either, I'm not a father mind...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 39.

    Beware the perils of attention! If such enterprises are noticed by the media industries, they will be seduced by the promise of filthy lucre, and the Dark Side will take their brave new ideas and cynically warp them into commercial caricatures. Lads, if you get the offer of big bucks....take it....run away...start the whole thing again with a big budget!

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 38.

    Finally Simon and Lewis get some recognition from the mainstream media. Keep up the good work boys (and Hannah).
    On a side note, I think I am going to go hunting for Yog tower tomorrow as I live in Bristol and must see it for myself.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 37.

    mainstream TV and music firms are watching SB.TV very closely, desperate to understand the connection it has with its audience
    ----

    Mainstream media channels are run by "them folks"

    Small utube channels are run by "us folks"

    Its a classic them and us scenario

    Places like the pirate bay flourish because "they" don't control it

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 36.

    I just wanted to post to add my support for for the Yogscast. I am 27 years old, and my husband is 28, and we are avid fans. It's not all teenage boys, I assure you! They have a wide and varied fanbase, most of which are not watching to be "cool". These guys (and gals) are hilarious and highly entertaining, and I expect to be a fan for a long time to come.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 35.

    I do the same thing. its great, and everyday gets better and better. it beats the doom and gloom and it's great to be my own boss. i suggest doing it

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 34.

    That's a very nice interview you have there...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 33.

    I'm 33 years old and I absolutely love watching the Yogscast videos. Simon & Lewis are responsible for my Minecraft addiction - I would never had played the game if they didn't make videos.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 32.

    'convincing people you're still cool' is not part of being a Yognaut. I'm
    25 years old with disposable income and still play computer games. Take that respected media analyst Theresa Wise.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 31.

    Good idea. However, it is well over a year ago since an article was deleted, and a lot has changed in that time. What is notable now might not have been in April 2011.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 30.

    Maybe those strict moderators over at WIkipedia will accept the BBC as a valid source to stop deleting the Yogscast article whenever anybody attempts one...

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 29.

    Said "respected media analyst" sums up all that's wrong with the media industry today, out of touch and ignorant of the modern world, clinging on to old models because that's all they've "heard of"

    Perhaps she should take a look at some cold hard figures and realise they're already far more popular and profitable than some broadcast TV channels.

  • rate this
    +6

    Comment number 28.

    I'm 25 and absolutely love watching the Yogscast! I hardly watch television any more unless it's something factual like a nature program. Also, listening to The YoGPoD on the bus certainly brightens up my mornings!

  • rate this
    +11

    Comment number 27.

    The yogscast fan base is hardly exclusively teenagers. I'm in my late twenties. myself, my other half, and our closest friends all tune in to watch yogscast vids(along with content from various other TGS channels, Day9 and Athene). It is currently at the stage where we as a group watch far more of this kind of media than we do traditional tv, because the content is better.

 

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