According to The Hollywood Reporter (and who doesn’t love a post that begins like that?), the creator of the viral-video site BarelyPolitical.com has accepted an offer for the purchase of his site by a bigger video startup. BarelyPolitical is best known for its music video “I Have a Crush On Obama,” in which a salacious young lady sings an R&B ballad to the Illinois Junior Senator, whilst wearing enough lip gloss to waterproof a pair of gym shorts. If you haven’t seen it, please, avail yourself. Then we’ll talk.
On its face, this video is, of course, absurd. As with many viral YouTube phenomena (this video got millions of hits), it combines 1) prurience, 2) a silly premise, and 3) amateur production value. Yes, it’s funny. Yes, it will pleasurably waste two minutes of your day. But even after the immense success of other YouTube favorites, this is the first news of a real money-making opportunity growing out of viral popularity. So the big question is: who would pay money for this site that made this? And why?
The buyer, Next New Media, will thrill any Long Tail-loving readers out there — its mission is to create 101 miniature entertainment channels with content like that of BarelyPolitical. In their own words:
“Next New Networks is a new kind of media company, creating micro-television networks over the internet for targeted communities, bringing together elements of tv programming and internet philosophy to allow viewers to contribute, share and distribute content.”
In other words, they’ll have more variety with less depth of content, to appeal to the sporadic tastes of internet viewers. Their methodology: troll the web for video entrepreneurs whose work has a spark, and incorporate them into the network. In essence, Next New Networks is the company so many YouTube posters have been dreaming of. As it continues to buy channels for its network, it creates a market for fun, if silly, destination sites. So all you have to do to get a piece of the pie is put together a handful of funny, if stupid, videos, then ride the wave of cash. Right?
Wrong. As it turns out, BarelyPolitical founder Ben Relles, who is staying on board after the acquisition, thinks his site is destined to serve a higher purpose with a bigger company behind it. As the Reporter… reports:
Relles said he has a larger goal of getting people involved in politics in the run-up to next year’s elections. He said the mainstream reaction to Obama Girl made him realize that his videos can have a life in the offline world, and he said Scannell and the team at Next New Networks, which includes board member and former AOL chairman and CEO Jonathan Miller, would be able to help him execute this.
If you look a the BarelyPolitical site, it’s hard to call what Relles does “satire” with a straight face — it’s more like farce. Many people, such as this blogger, would argue that the sitcom is a dying form, and that this kind of web video will replace it. But can these sorts of videos really become do-it-all replacements for the brain-dead sitcoms of yore by featuring both levity and conscience? And as such, are they actually worth buying (or creating for sale)? Can the future of television be both lovably amateurish as well as subversive and provocative — even as the companies behind the scenes grow increasingly conglomerated?