Case Study

Former TV Hosts Find Online Success

Comedy Clips Called for Rhett and Link

By Published on .

The Creators: Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal are the Web comedy duo known on the Web as Rhett and Link. The two grew up together in North Carolina and began producing videos in their teens. They hosted the short-lived "Online Nation" series for The CW in 2007.

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The Distributors: Rhett and Link are among the pioneers of the super-syndication model on the Web because they distribute their videos widely to sites such as YouTube, Yahoo, MySpace, Revver, Veoh, Viddler, blip, Metacafe and Crackle. The pair's largest audience comes from YouTube, where they count about 22,000 subscribers. Most of their YouTube videos draw about 50,000 views on average, though some have surpassed 1 million views. "If we are lucky enough to score a feature on one of the other sites we distribute to, like Yahoo, we can expect to see a video get seen multiple thousands of times," Mr. McLaughlin said. "Our total video views, as measured by [online video distribution firm] TubeMogul, are over 10 million over the past two years." The pair also struck a deal with TV Guide earlier this year and produced a handful of videos that ran on TVGuide.com.

The Sponsors: Rhett and Link have landed a range of sponsors including Alka-Seltzer, Starburst, Cadillac, Hummer, Baby Ruth, AJJ Cornhole, iRESQ and MicroBilt. Most of the ad deals call for branded integration. For instance, they created a music video about the backyard game "Cornhole" and then approached the game's maker about financing the video. They snagged iPod repair company iRESQ as a sponsor for a music video on dead iPods. The Alka-Seltzer partnership that ran throughout the summer wove the sponsor into a cross-country road trip the duo made. On that trip, they produced a wide range of food-themed videos shot on-location at famous restaurants and food festivals. They are currently working on an eight-video series sponsored by Starburst called "The Surrogate Sharers" where they share messages most people aren't comfortable sharing themselves, Mr. Neal said.

The Content: Rhett and Link are known for making comedic videos, spoofs, music videos and short, tongue-in-cheek interviews. Their videos are usually one-offs, though they sometimes produce segments or music videos as part of a limited-run series.

Backstory: "In high school, we commandeered Rhett's dad's video camera and immediately embarked on making a movie, writing the screenplay and filming as we went," Mr. Neal said. "We didn't get very far, but it was enough to let us know that we wanted to keep creating. We've been making videos in one form or another since then. Once YouTube came along, allowing anyone to upload, we started putting our videos there, and then the audience started to gather."

Endgame: With interests in music, filmmaking, television, and online, the comedy duo say they want to produce programming for as many mediums as possible, but they have their eyes on film and TV. "Currently, we are trying to maximize every opportunity, producing the most entertaining content we can," Mr. Neal said. "Of course, we would love to be a part of something bigger than ourselves, like a TV show or feature film, but the world of traditional entertainment can be a bit vexing, and it often has unfortunate surprises like loss of creative control, signing away of precious rights. The freedom we enjoy while creating for an online audience makes it difficult to imagine being any more fulfilled doing anything else.But, we continue push on a lot of doors, having as many conversations as we can."

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