One teen drama, "The Runaways," is reminiscent of Robbins' WB series. In the opening episode, a parent is found dead and two teens go missing on the same day. The mystery unfolds through a series of interviews with prep school students, who are questioned by police in the principal's office. The story is told in flashbacks, recounted in five-minute installments.
"The Blow-Up Guys" is a Web version of the "Jackass" movies, with absurd stunts and gross-out gags. Five teenage boys from Utah engage in goofy antics, including one in which they leap from a second-story balcony onto a trampoline, then bounce into a kiddie pool filled with milk.
Seeking to capitalize on a fan's hero worship, Awesomeness Sports features professional athletes including Denver Nuggets guard Aaron Afflalo, Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez and Milwaukee Brewers slugger Ryan Braun sharing tips. Other shows highlight the accomplishments of young athletes, such as Jordan Romero, who at age 13 was the youngest person to summit Everest.
"Our programming philosophy is we want to make stuff for our audience that isn't on anywhere else. Because everything's short-form, we can try a lot," Robbins said. "Nickelodeon and Disney, they do a certain thing and they do it really well. We're not trying to go in their lane."
Robbins' partner in the 15-person Awesomeness TV production company, television veteran Joe Davola, drew parallels between the upstart YouTube channel and another programming renegade, MTV.
"When Brian told me about this channel, it reminded me of the early days of MTV, because it was maverick, it was brand new, it was something the young people were getting involved with," said Davola, who worked as a producer at MTV. "It felt like this was the beginning of the next generation of what's happening in media."
With this new media platform, Robbins can't rely on old promotional techniques for attracting an audience to his online shows — there won't be any billboards on Sunset Boulevard or bus sides heralding the launch of "IMO." That's why, for "IMO," he selected hosts with established social media followings, and those familiar to TV audiences, in hopes of encouraging these fans to sample the new program. With luck, the new viewers will promote Awesomeness TV's programs to their friends.
Awesomeness TV doesn't have advertising factored into its start-up budget, Robbins said. In fact, an entire year's worth of programming for the venture — five new shows a day, five days a week, for 120 original episodes — will cost less than the budget for the television pilot of "Smallville."
Robbins is optimistic about capturing the hearts of teens and tweens — but as he says, he isn't giving up his day job. "We're still producing our three shows on television.... We're about to make a third 'Fred' movie, and we just shot 'The To Do List' for CBS Films," he said. "But I would be lying if I said I'm not just about all-in — meaning, this is becoming my primary focus."
Digital Disruption: Another story in a series about how evolving technology is changing the media experience.