Teen Choice Awards: The risks and rewards of wooing the Web
Thirteen-year-old Aubrey Davenport, hoping to be noticed among the thousands of fans outside Los Angeles’ Shrine Auditorium for Fox’s Teen Choice Awards, held up a sign she made for her favorite star.
But the celebrity the Orange County native wanted to see most wasn’t anyone from “The Fault in Our Stars,” “Pretty Little Liars” or any of the other nominated movies or TV shows.
Instead, Davenport’s sign, written on white poster board in turquoise, pink and black marker, read: “I <3 Bethany Mota.”
With nearly 7 million subscribers on her YouTube channel, Mota took home one of the most talked-about awards Sunday night, female Web star.
“She’s so creative, I started my own YouTube channel because I’m so inspired by her,” said Davenport, who was hardly the only YouTube-loving fan in the crowd. Many of the teens waiting with patient parents outside the Shrine said they watched more YouTube than TV.
It’s a phenomenon reflected in Teen Choice’s growing number of Web awards, which began in 2010 with choice Web star and choice twit. In 2012, a social network award was added. But this is the year the category exploded with 13 digital awards, including separate male and female Web star awards and new Web star awards in comedy, music, fashion/beauty and gaming. A social media queen and king were named, and joining choice twit were choice Instagrammer and choice Viner.
“It’s absolutely amazing that YouTube and Vine are getting this recognition now,” said Andrea Russett, a YouTube personality and awards nominee. “It’s not just one award, it’s a whole category!”
From the red carpet, awards co-host Sarah Hyland of ABC’s “Modern Family” told The Times, “Everything is about the Internet nowadays. I think it’s a good idea moving forward to include [Web stars] in awards shows.”
But there are risks when Web stars and awards shows mix.
After the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences brought on four social-media experts for red carpet duty at June’s Daytime Emmys, several media outlets deemed the live-stream experiment a “disaster” after the inexperienced hosts asked ill-informed questions and made inappropriate jokes in front of startled TV stars. They did, at least, get people talking about the show.
Certainly, the Teen Choice Awards widened its audience by including online stars. And most of the Web-award nominees willingly promoted the show on their multiple social media platforms. There were a whopping 4.4 million tweets about the Teen Choice Awards on Sunday, according to Canvs, a social TV platform created by social media analytics firm Mashwork.
But driving many of those tweets was a fan backlash that Fox and the awards’ production company, Teenasaurus Rox, didn’t anticipate.
More than 164 million people voted in this year’s awards, according to the Teen Choice website, which also posts the disclaimer: “Teenasaurus Rox reserved the right to choose the winner from the top four vote getters.”
The disclaimer caused a dust-up last year when some complained that fans didn’t have the final say in who won. This year, however, there was a full-blown Twitter storm when some of the social-media winners and nominees started commenting on how the awards were chosen.
Cameron Dallas, who won the choice Vine award but lost in the male Web star category, tweeted and later deleted: “It’s funny how they told me I won the Viner award 6 days before the voting ended and made the runners up still tweet to vote for them.”
Matthew Espinosa, a nominee in the choice Vine category, tweeted and also later deleted: “Basically they picked the people almost 6 days before voting was done and used all of us for promotion.”
Another Vine celebrity, Carter Reynolds, jumped into the fray with the hashtag #TeensDontHaveAChoiceAwards, which quickly started trending.
Espinosa and Dallas didn’t return requests for comment on why their tweets were deleted, and the show’s producers were unavailable for interviews.
With pro and con comments on the awards continuing even days later, it’s clear that traditional outlets are still learning how to engage with a generation raised as social-media natives. Social teens are a force to be reckoned with.
After YouTube star Tyler Oakley took home two Teen Choice Web awards, he tweeted: “Major love to ALL my Internet friends — we are a part of something really big right now and y’all inspire me so much. #TeamInternet.” The #TeamInternet hashtag and Oakley’s name almost immediately became worldwide trending topics on Twitter.
A Variety survey published last week found that the top five celebrities among U.S. teens were not Hollywood stars but YouTube celebrities — Smosh, the Fine Bros., PewDiePie, KSI and Ryan Higa. The first non-Internet star to make the list was Paul Walker, at No. 6.
“People don’t realize it, but online personalities rival traditional celebrities,” said 17-year-old Viner Jack Gilinsky, one half of the Vine account Jack & Jack. He and longtime friend Jack Johnson, nominated as a team for a Teen Choice Award, have about 4.2 million Vine subscribers.
Video blogging supergroup Our 2nd Life, known as O2L to fans, said the organizers of the Teen Choice Awards were smart to incorporate Web personas.
They’re “expanding the demographic of watchers, because people who only watch YouTube will also watch TCA,” said Trevor Moran, one of the six members of the group, which took home the comedy Web star award.
Despite the heavy presence of Web favorites, however, this year’s awards show was even in ratings with last year’s, drawing in roughly 2.6 million viewers. According to Nielsen, the show earned a 0.8 in the key 18-to-49-year-old demographic both this year and last. Though the show was down slightly in the teens category (a rating of 2.7 versus last year’s 2.9), it was still the highest-rated program of the night among teens.
Even with the Twitter backlash and flat broadcast ratings (DVR numbers won’t be released until next week), the Web stars’ presence isn’t likely to diminish. As attendee Kelli Williams, 19, of Las Vegas, put it: “I think the YouTube community and the movie and TV industries should be combined, because they are all celebrities in people’s minds.”
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