Why Squeegees Is Hysterical and ABC’s Financial Quagmire

The New York Times writes another “web video is a losing proposition” article, and boasts countless of examples of overbaked web series that lost their shirts. I think Squeegees is a perfect example of the problem with online video and monetization. Writes Brian Stelter:

“Squeegees,” a 10-episode series by Stage 9 (a digital subsidiary of ABC) about a merry band of high-rise window washers, illustrates the challenge. The show made its premiere in April on five Web sites. On the most prominent site, YouTube, the second episode showed 312,000 views as of Sunday, helped by prominent links on YouTube’s home page in April. By the fifth episode, the view count had dropped to 3,000.

Squeegees is absolutely hysterical (see them on YouTube). I learned of it for the first time last Friday from a friend, and we watched nearly ever episode. It’s well written, well acted, and reminds me of Stella (a short-lived modern 3 Stooges, staring the brilliant Michael Ian Black).

But it’s perhaps “too television like” for the early, habitual adopters of online video. It’s brilliant comedy but simply doesn’t currently appeal to online-video viewers that engage daily with YouTube. Will the mainstream viewers prefer Squeegees to Nalts? Absolutely. But that’s going to take time, and even Eisner can’t afford to float expensive production until a monetization model appears in the next few years (driven mostly by ads, and subsidized by pay-per-view if it’s easy enough and offers additional value).

Squeegees has about 1,500 subscribers on YouTube despite uploading 6 months ago (admitedly YouTube is not a primary channel for the content, and here are the rest of the distribution channels for the web series).

But remember that YouTube is the most popular online-video site, and the default residence for regular consumers of online video. For now (with an emphasis on NOW), I’d rather be the 80th most popular YouTuber than the King of Hulu. I’ve gained more subscribers in the past 24 hours than Squeegees has since it launched. Am I better? No. But I market myself, appeal better to current obsessive online viewers, and I probably spend less per episode than Squeegees spent to cater breakfast on a one day shoot.

squeegeesContent well produced like Squeegees will eventually leave us amateurs in the dust. But in the mean time the marketers of this content are probably beating their head against the wall and missing some things that are obvious… keep costs down, leverage existing cewebrities from YouTube, collaborate, appeal to current audiences, and evolve the style over time.

Squeegees’ producer, “Stage 9” describes itself as “seeking filmmakers who create high-quality series at a fraction of the cost of film and television.” I don’t doubt that Squeegees was produced at a fraction of a television series, but that’s still too much. I don’t yet see an advertising model that can substantiate actors, writers, directors, sets- except perhaps a single sponsor that gets more than CPM and uses the content to attract prospects to a site that converts them to customers. But if I was Stage 9 I’d start with the advertiser, and develop content that fits their goals and demo.

That said, I’m ready for a cameo, Squeegees! And that goes for any other killer content creator looking to boost its visibility on YouTube! All I ever wanted in life was to make someone famous so they can ignore my calls when they hit.

23 Replies to “Why Squeegees Is Hysterical and ABC’s Financial Quagmire”

  1. Okay Kevin, sounds good. Why don’t we meet up next Thursday and we’ll tape the next part of my…oh, wait. You’re not using “killer” in the same way I was.


  2. I will tell you exactly why Squeegees did badly: because if you tell someone there is a weekly TV show about a bunch of guys that squeegee windows, no one will watch. And less people watch online video now.

    Seriously, that is a TERRIBLE idea for a show. 7-year-olds might find the idea amusing, but the internet crowd is used to the “Lonelygirl15″s and the “Retarded Policeman”s – hip, never-been-done-before-because-TV/old people-would-never-go-for-it-type stuff.

    The only way I would watch a show about window washers called “Squeegees” is if it was written by Kevin Smith or Seth Rogen. And neither of them would allow it to be named that. It’s too hack for anyone who is comedy savvy.

    That said, the actual show in question is not bad. I am simply stating the impossibility of marketing something called “Squeegees” to an incredibly jaded audience.

  3. I kind of agree with Peter Coffin – except I 100% believe the show was garbage. Conceptually, it was stupid to start with, but even moreso, it reeks of too many cooks in the kitchen which is too bad because the dudes who star are a group called Handsome Donkey who are actually pretty good if you go to their site.

    They’re also repped by UTA Online, run by a bunch of too cool-for-schoolers who just went from the Mail Room to the 5th Floor because they knew how to make a MySpace page in 2006. Please.

    Note to Stage 9 and UTA: Leave the show format, comedy and pacing to the TALENT. I wish these Handsome Donkey dudes had a larger fan base like I do so that they don’t need Disney and UTA to fuck up their vision then negotiate a placement on the YT homepage. No doubt the front page feature of Squeeges Ep2 was a deal. I’d bet on it.

    Viralcom, a far-superior series by Joey & David, also had major dropoff, but not because of its quality, I’d say due to episode length. I think it was a bit too satirical (aka “too clever”) for the core audience too. I’m not Stage 9 or UTA – OR EVEN WB 2.0 who actually backed Joey & David for Viralcom, but I have a name because of Wicked Awesome Films and my endorsement may have swayed the editors a bit. Why did I recommend it? Because it’s quality.

    Bottom line: With front page placement and huge drop-off and no click-through experience, the show’s a dud. It has nothing to do with bullshit like “it looks too much like TV”. It’s either a quality or format problem.

    Nalts, you get views because of early adoption and volume. Being smart enough to cross-collab is huge too. Those factors keep you in the metrics-driving feature lists that still drive viewers and subscribers to your content, regardless of what it is.

    That being said, want to be in a Wicked Awesome Film? (Pssst… We’re NOT Waverly Films!!!!!!)

  4. Woah- Bobby for the win. That comment made me feel like you should be driving this bus. I’m getting in the back and sitting between Nutcheese and Sukatra to keep them from fighting.

  5. @ 3 & 6 – A stupid concept doesn’t mean something is bound to fail. One of the most popular comedy sitcoms of all time was literally sold to the network as “A show about nothing”. (If you don’t know what show that is, you might have been living under a rock)

    Plus, in viral video, I don’t see having a good show idea as important as having a memorable product and building a committed fan base. The problem with shows like squeegees is that they seemingly suddenly pop out of nowhere, and bloat their views with online advertising as opposed to viral marketing. Sure a lot of people will watch episode 1, but only because the ads were everywhere. They have no reason to invest themselves into the show.

    I’m going to invoke the name of LonelyGirl15 here. Now, despite being on the tube for two years, their show is still getting tens of thousands of views. And you want to talk stupid concepts? Hello, a teenage video blogger who’s on the run from some secret society, all the while posting videos about her hiding which the villians somehow never watch? Yikes, and I thought my channel was a drag!

    So why does a stupid teenage drama still get 10-30k+ views on every episode two years out of the gate, when a hilarious show like squeegees has almost half of their episodes within 3 months of starting the show coming in at less than 10k? I think part of the answer lies in how they each got their viewers. LG15 was “slow-cooking” viewership, by building up a fan base for months before they went into the main plot of their story. Squeegees just showed up on day and ran some ads.

    If you want to make something of yourself in the world of viral video, you need to leverage viral marketing, and get the people to do your advertising. I have virtually never clicked an ad on YouTube or elsewhere to watch someone’s YouTube videos. But when my good friends tell me to check out this awesome series on YouTube, I not only check it out, but I often subscribe and friend them as well. It’s all in where I get the information. And I think I’m not alone on that.

    Where’s Jan? He’ll be mad when he sees all these wordy posts that he didn’t author!

  6. @8: I’m sorry – “a show about nothing” sounds significantly better than “AN ABSOLUTELY HYSTERICAL ZANY FUNNY SHOW ABOUT FUNNY GUYS WASHING WINDOWS THAT IS HILARIOUS.”

    When you attempt to load the fact that you are trying to be funny in your title, like “Squeegees,” you sound hack. And the YouTube crowd HATES hack material. They rip it the fuck apart – in fact, it seems like there are literally people that spend all day trying to find it so they can rip it apart.

    But you are quite right about the marketing of this stuff. Building a core fanbase is INCREDIBLY important. Also, length of series is really important as well – honestly, who wants to watch a 10-part miniseries on YT? I don’t. Out of long-form entertainment, I either want something that I can be watching the story arc several years from now or I want a movie that is 1-2 hours and doesn’t have 10 stupid little arcs in it.

    And seriously, who is on the internet for long-form entertainment at this point? People who use BitTorrent and DVD burners, not YouTubers.

    Back to the first point, though: It’s not the concept I am bashing – yes, it is a terrible concept. But so is Clerks – except that wasn’t hack and it wasn’t marketed as such.

    Clerks does not try to load its title with comedy. Its tagline, “Just Because They Serve You… Doesn’t Mean They Like You” does not reek of “executive.” And nowhere is the word “hilarious” mentioned. The film is a comedy but doesn’t try to tell you that it is funny, instead it establishes a certain attitude about it. It lets you figure it out (and you feel smart for liking it). “Squeegees” is a supposedly zany name and I am 100% positive that it was chosen so people know it’s zany. That’s something the YouTube crowd HATES: telling them what to think, even subtly.

    And @Bobby: I never said the show was great, just not bad. I suppose mediocre would be a better way to describe it but for what it is, it could DEFINITELY be way worse.

    On the internet, mediocre does not work; you have to rock hard if you are humor of the intentional variety. I would say you probably know that already, though; just wanted to make sure it is known that I am no hack/hack supporter.

  7. Peter,

    I agree with you that the over-corpratitazation is probably a contributing factor to the series’ dismal numbers, and that Tubers can smell (and detest) corporate entities trying to be “like the rest of us”. Well, for the most part anyway. (Everyone thought LG15 was real the first few months on the tube.)

    That being said, a good deal of the comedy on squeegees is pretty funny. I’d wager to say that it’s better than what I’m doing on my channel anyway.

    I think the series concept on YouTube isn’t all that crazy, Look at Ask a Ninja, Retarded Policeman, etc, etc. Series, even miniseries, can work (and I’d bet you biscuits that if it were a hit, squeegees would have been an ongoing thing).

    Maybe the problem is that corporate entities don’t engage the community. They show up, plaster their stuff all over, and ignore anything that the community says (sort of like what I do to those other video sites I use TubeMogul to upload to. Zing!) They’re a drop of oil in a cup of water. It just won’t mix.

    Maybe what corporations need is to engage in the community. You’re paying the talent more than I make at my day job. How about giving a couple interns the job of replying to comments, watching other people’s videos and commenting on them, and marketing their stuff to relevant sites?

    Okay, that last sentence sounded way too much like something Nalts would say. I need to get out of here and wash my mind out with soap.

  8. @Jim – I’m not talking about the content for the most part. And I don’t think the concept is what is important (as I said with Clerks). I think it is how you pitch the concept to the audience. Calling it “Squeegees” reeks of “PLEASE FIND THIS FUNNY,” while calling it “Clear as a Clean Window” (or something akin) respects the viewer more. It may not get the broad appeal that “Squeegees” would get, but it would get people that are interested in something clever enough to be serialized. “Squeegees” works as a title for a 1-2 minute Jackass-esque sketch without much dialogue and therefor heavy reliance on sight gags.

    It wouldn’t work as the name of a TV series and it wouldn’t work as the name of a movie.

    What you are talking about as far as engaging the community is spot on, though. I agree full-force with what you are saying. If you care, YT has a better chance of caring. I get “holy shit, you actually responded to my message!” messages and I am not even on the top 100 COMEDIANS. Imagine if Universal Music did that.

  9. But like I said, the actual content could be a lot worse, but it comes of as kind of broad-for-the-sake-of-finding-an-audience at times. Not that broad humor is bad, but it’s all in timing. It’s mediocre content. Not terrible, not good. I would probably not have watched it if Nalts didn’t mention it and I will definitely not repeat watch it.

    But if someone says “have you heard of Squeegees?” I will not say “YEAH, FUCK THAT SHOW, MAN. IT SUCKS.” I’ll say “yeah, it’s not bad. Not quite what I’m into, though.”

  10. The more we discuss this, the more I think we have similar views, and we just express them differently. I do agree, that it looks like squeegees is screaming out “Hey hey! look at me, I’m funny!” and that is a turnoff. When someone tells me they excel in a field, I expect them to be correct . (Sidebar: This is why I die a little on the inside every time I hear the phrase “Viral Video Genius” 😀 ) And this is why I don’t give my viewers high expectations. My tagline might read “If you don’t want to kick him in the junk afterwards, it was one of his better productions”.

    But I don’t know about the assessment that the series title wouldn’t work on TV. I mean, there have been a lot of hits with equally stupid names. “My Name is Earl” – Really, seriously? A show with a title pulled off a nametag sticker? They probably got that one from their drug abuse support group. And what about “Scrubs”? Wait, oh crap, I just figured it out. The pan cut transitions, the corny jokes, the name, Squeegees ia a Scrubs wannabe! Now that IS lame!

  11. Ah, but here is the thing: “My Name is Earl” could be ironic. And “Scrubs” could be anything, even drama. “Squeegees” can only be comedy.

    I think you are rather correct on us having fairly similar viewpoints though.

  12. Peter: I wasn’t challenging you – I agreed with you. I just took it a little farther. Now everyone go watch Handsome Donkey because they’re pretty good. handsomedonkey.com!

  13. Oh man, the sexual tension between peter coffin and somecallmejim is really beginning to heat up. Now there’s a video I’d pay to watch. Not.

  14. @Bobby – I wasn’t challenging back, I just desperately wanted to disassociate myself with hack material. 🙂

    @sukatra – I don’t think I’d pay to watch anything on the internet.

  15. Wow! An actual discussion of the content of this blog! I don’t think that has ever happened before. And they are even getting a little testy with each other. Now that’s entertainment.

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