Night Media has 10 clients. The thing is, “They’re all whales,” says Reed Duchscher, founding president of the talent management and digital marketing agency.
Those “whales” include some of the world’s top YouTube influencers. Duchscher’s clients collectively amass more than 1 billion monthly views and have over 112 million followers. “Pound for pound, I would say we’re the biggest talent management firm in the country right now, in terms of views,” Duchscher told Dallas Innovates. “We’ve been fortunate.”
Duchscher and his Dallas-based agency represent a client list that reads something like an all-star YouTube watch list: Preston, MrBeast, Unspeakable Gaming, Brianna, Typical Gamer, Mini Ladd, Crainer, SSundee, SamaraRedway, Leah Ashe. While many ‘Boomers’ wouldn’t recognize these names, to Gen X-ers, the group is of the highest celebrity status.
Take MrBeast (whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson), for instance. Known as a “viral philanthropist” for his cult-favorite donation videos, the YouTube superstar took over the Internet last year, according to Night Media.
“I’m sure parents were like: ‘Who is this person? Why is everyone so obsessed with this person?'” Duchscher says of MrBeast, who he signed last year. “Well, he has 22 million subscribers and is doing 300 million views a month. This is who your kids care about.”
And these young, rising online sensations have the money to match the views. Night Media’s Preston Arsement, who also goes by PrestonPlayz and TBNRfrags online, came in at No. 6 ($14 million in earnings) on Forbes’ list of the highest-paid YouTubers last year. Preston is widely hailed as a trailblazer in the movement of streaming video games, and rose to fame with his family-friendly, lighthearted content. His wife, Brianna, is also one of Night Media’s clients.
The first question Duchscher asks talent is if they’re ready for their life to change. The life of a YouTube celebrity can be surreal, Duchscher notes, sometimes to the point where they can’t see anyone in public without taking a picture.
“Jimmy [Donaldson] can’t even be in the airport anymore,” he says. Others, like Ryan Kaji, “is one of the biggest kids channels on YouTube right now. He only about 10, and he’s a celebrity for the rest of his life.” Kaji was the highest paid YouTuber last year, earning $26 million for his toy review videos.
These young adults’ success is testament that the next generation just isn’t watching traditional cable anymore—it’s all about streaming, and some brands are beginning to take advantage of the change, Duchscher says. “People are finally realizing this world exists.”
And Night Media is there to make the connection.
Night Media is built on two pillars, Duchscher says. “One is the family friendliness of only signing creators that Mom and Dad are comfortable letting their kids watch. The second is we work with creators and celebrities that want to be more than just YouTubers. They want to be business people and entrepreneurs.”
It’s Night Media’s role to build relationships with these social media superstars, while connecting them with brands that yearn for screen time with new (and younger) audiences. This one-on-one type of advertisement allows brands to intimately connect with their target audiences.
“It’s organic. It’s authentic,” Duchscher says. “And, it’s relatable.”
Night Media has partnerships with Main Event, Honey, OnePlus, Hot Pockets, TikTok, Wix, and more. And, they recently filmed a Star Wars commercial in Orlando after Disney reached out to one of the agency’s leading female YouTube creators.
With Night Media’s fast growth and high-level talent, Duchscher says the agency can now get involved in angel investing and new emerging businesses. Soon to be announced in 2020 are deals involving Night Media clients and consumer packaged goods companies, as well as larger productions that will go live on YouTube.
“Our scale is going to come from being business partners with our clients,” Duchscher says.
The man behind the (Night) Media
Duchscher originally grew up wanting to be a sports agent—mainly because he saw “Jerry Maguire”—and was working Las Vegas at an NFL Sports Agency when he started meeting popular YouTubers. He made the acquaintance with Dude Perfect, a sports entertainment group from Frisco that made trick shot videos and at the time had 2.1 million views with no editors or production people.
“They weren’t a massive corporation yet, so it really opened my eyes to how big this industry was,” he says. He also realized many YouTubers were a family business, and he immediately gravitated towards the lifestyle.
So Duchscher soon quit his job at the sports agency that he’d “worked two years to get into” and began working with Dude Perfect on monetization strategies, all the while gaining more knowledge in digital marketing. (Note that Dude Perfect now has almost 50 million subscribers and ranked second among the highest-paid YouTubers last year).
Duchscher sensed change was coming—influencers and digital marketing were taking over traditional advertising channels.
And it was then that Night Media came to be.
The firm started with management, branding, and business development, and has since transformed into a full-service marketing boutique that partners with clients and offers strategic market plans, digital strategy, talent management, and more.
It surprises some to learn that Night Media is in Dallas, Duchscher says. “People always think we’re in Los Angeles,” Duchscher says. “Obviously, it’s talent management. But you can film YouTube videos from anywhere. It’s a different world.”
Duschscher moved to Dallas about five years ago when he started the company, and it felt like home. Growing in a “friendly town in North Dakota,” he says, the culture seemed right.
“We’ll continue to build up here,” Duchscher says. And although business is booming, with Night Media calling itself “the fastest-growing digital talent firm of its kind,” Duchscher’s role goes beyond that. He refers to himself as ‘Professional YouTube Dad,’ and has befriended many of Night Media’s talent.
“I’m obsessed with what I do,” he says. “Absolutely obsessed.”
How Night Media is different
Getting to know a potential client and their family is of utmost importance to Duchscher. He views the clients as “more of a family and less of a business,” so making sure everyone gets along is crucial.
“I was in Preston’s wedding. I’ll be in Typical Gamer’s wedding.” he said. “I’ve understood that the manager is the closest person when it comes to a celebrity. They’ll have an agent, a publicist, a lawyer, a CPA—but it always filters to the manager.”
That core value of positive relationships also translates to who Duchscher decides to work with. The new generation of kids are streaming from YouTube, and Night Media is behind some of those biggest influencers. In effect, Night Media is serving a role as an influencer, too.
Duchscher is proud of his roster of family-friendly clients. They are level-headed, he says. They stay out of online disputes. They remain humble. And, they often give back to charities or social impact projects.
“Parents need to understand what their kids are watching and why they’re watching it,” Duchscher says. “They’re watching our clients play video games and make funny videos.”
Nearly every client of Night Media has their own family involved in their online business. And, he says, many YouTubers employ their parents. That’s something Duchscher likes, because parental figures usually look out for the person the most: “We ask them what position they like to play.”
“It’s why we can’t just sign people at scale, because we’d like to be really close to the people we work with,” Duchscher says.
So, you want to be a YouTube star?
Night Media has other requirements to take on new clients, too, such as getting at least 40- to 50-million views a month, Duchscher says. Those views would put the agency’s potential clients in the top one percent of YouTubers.
That said, he says the bar to get on YouTube is equitable.
“The opportunity for a 16-year-old kid to change their life making internet videos is amazing. Emma Chamberlain is one of the biggest female influencers in the world,” Duchscher says. “She’s 18 years old, and she blew up when she was 15. Her life completely changed: She was a millionaire. That didn’t just happen two decades ago.”
Traditional kids’ TV channels have experienced a decline in viewership in the last decade. For example, Disney on average had 763,000 viewers in the 2017/2018 TV season, which is down from its 2.16 million in the 2010/2010 season, Statista reports. And, “in the linear world, viewership figures at ad-supported kid-oriented cable networks are pretty grim,” Variety wrote in October.
Night Media’s collective talent viewership gives brands an opportunity to make connections with a younger—and bigger—audience. Brands are given the opportunity to advertise with no high production costs, because it’s simply the influencer talking to fans directly about a product. This one-on-one kind of advertisement gives brands the resources they need to connect with the younger generation.
“Big brands are finally realizing the influence is really with these digital influencers—not traditional celebrities anymore,” Duchscher says.
A recent survey, conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of Lego, showed that kids are three times as likely to aspire to be a YouTuber or videographer then they are to be an astronaut.
“There’s a reason kids today want to be YouTubers. They watch YouTube on their phone 24/7. They see these people. They think, ‘I can’t relate to Tom Brady, but I can relate to Mr. Beast,'” Duchscher says. “MrBeast is a normal kid filming videos in a small town [in North Carolina]. There’s something so relatable about that.”
MrBeast, as previously mentioned, is one of Night Media’s ‘whales.’ He brings in a monstrous amount of views: 4.71 billion in total, as of the time this piece was published. “We’ve done a lot of deals with gaming companies. MrBeast can get 500,000 downloads on a mobile game by just putting it in a video.”
“That’s bigger than ‘Game of Thrones’—it’s not even close,” Duchscher says.
To compare, a record 17.4 million viewers tuned in to the “Game of Thrones” premiere of the final season, according to Fortune, which noted that was up from 16.1 million viewers who watched the first episode in the prior season.
Some MrBeast videos feature outlandish and attention-grabbing stunts, like donating “absurd amounts” of money to strangers. MrBeast has even featured celebrities like Cam Newton, where they break three different Guinness World Records.
Social good is also on the agenda: MrBeast raised over $20M for #TeamTrees in partnership with the Arbor Day Foundation’s reforestation program.
The future of Night Media
Currently, Night Media is helping clients create and own their Intellectual Property (IP), giving the influencers the rights to what they love to create. “None of the guys that we work with started making videos to make money,” Duchscher says. “It was for the love of making videos.”
Duchscher calls it the “entertainment of the future”—major companies would have to pay for YouTubers’ movies, shows, and animations they make.
“It puts us in the power position,” Duchscher says. “It flips the script on big companies, because they no longer have the leverage in those conversations.”
One current development at Night Media is an animated series that Preston, Brianna (who goes by Bri), and Duchscher have been working on. They also are planning the launch of multiple YouTube channels based upon new characters and stories.
Who is a good candidate for working with Night Media? According to Duchshcher, it’s someone who might say: “‘I started making these videos. Now I’m getting millions of views, and I’m making good money. But what’s the next step?’ Those are usually the people we start working with.”
There are different pillars to each person’s business, he says. And it really depends on what their audience is. But those are the people we like working with: “They see the bigger possibility.”
Quincy Preston and Alex Edwards contributed to this report.
A version of this story was originally published in Dallas Innovates 2020: The Magazine.
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