NBC has new plans to seek out and broadcast online video stars, a network executive said during a VidCon panel Thursday.
"That's where the audience is," said Rob Hayes, executive vice president of entertainment for NBC. "We want to find the next wave of entertainment content creators and figure out how to mobilize them."
He said NBC would launch a contest aimed at YouTube stars and undiscovered talent alike. After people submit videos, judges will select two winners and guarantee a series of about six episodes on NBC.
Hayes was among industry heavyweights who agreed that large Hollywood companies have no choice but to invest in online video creators.
Younger generations are hooked on bite-size entertainment offered on platforms like YouTube and Vine. If media giants plan to profit off that young audience, such platforms are where they should start.
"Hollywood is essentially buying a huge audience that they want to reach," said Will Keenan, president of Endemol Beyond USA, the digital arm of global TV production firm Endemol. "They've been doing it the old fashioned way."
That was the consensus among others on the Vidcon panel, including Claire Curley, Nickelodeon's vice president of digital content development, and Joe Davola, co-founder of AwesomenessTV, the fast-growing network for teens that DreamWorks Animation acquired a year ago in a deal valued at up to $117 million.
George Strompolos, CEO of major YouTube multichannel network FullScreen, said that his company would be investing $10 million in original programming for YouTube creators' passion projects. Culver City-based FullScreen manages more than 15,000 channels and generates more than 2.5 billion views monthly.
"For us, it's about harnessing creativity," Strompolos said.