With news in the past few weeks that Grace Helbig has inked a deal with E! for a new talk show tentatively titled “The Grace Helbig Project”, it has proven to be a huge victory for online talent. Despite how much we might be tempted to put down E!, the network has given us some of our best pop culture touchstones of the past ten years (from Kardashians to Playboy bunny reality shows), and this is very much the start of something important. Most impressive is that Grace will be the only woman hosting her own late night talk show on a major network, as noted by the New York Times in their write-up of the signing. E!, for all of it’s insane and absurd reality TV shows, is the only network to consistently give women late night talk shows.
But what does this mean for the YouTube community at large? Grace’s success is not without a large amount of trying, rejection and scoffing. Her signing does not mean that just anyone will be given a talk show, but it does mean that TV networks are beginning to notice the mark social media stars are leaving on viewers. If you had asked anyone a year ago if a YouTuber could transition to a lasting career in traditional media the answer would be a resounding, “Hell no.” But 2014 marked a huge shift in the media seeing social media stars, like Grace, seriously as brand creators and hosts. Grace, for her part, has more than proven herself as capable of handling a talk show: for six year she released a new video every day on her YouTube channel “DailyGrace” and accumulated over a million subscribers. This past year she released her first feature film with fellow YouTubers, Mamrie Hart and Hannah Hart (all three served as producers) to favorable reviews and a great amount of success digitally. To put it simply, Grace has come a long way from being “that girl from YouTube on Lowes commercials.”
The way I see this new development is, YouTubers who want to break out of the internet will be able to if they work hard enough. YouTubers who are smart about their brand and effectively prove themselves as capable of making money for companies will probably have the most luck. Teen stars will probably have this easiest as networks like Nickeledeon have already started including teen YouTubers on their shows in collaboration with AwesomenessTV. But that doesn’t mean they will have a lasting career. For that, I see YouTubers who are consistently pushing themselves with challenging and intelligent content. The slow-burners of YouTuber, like Grace who take years to gain a million fans, will eventually be the ones who win out. And truthfully, they are the ones who should.
Grace is the first YouTuber to truly capitalize on her fan-base and success. This show will be an impressive feat if it goes successfully, and if her fans tune in to watch weekly. More than anything, I hope it serves as a calling card for networks and film studios to see realize the popularity and dominance of YouTubers. There are smart ones out there, and they can bring in good money. It’s just a matter of networks and companies as influential as E! having the faith and balls to sign them on.