ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars” just announced the lineup for its 19th season. Featured is one Bethany Mota, a teenage YouTube star who’s been video blogging for seven years, racking up 7 million subscribers to her beauty-related videos. If you haven’t heard of her, you just aren’t part of the demographic that “Dancing With the Stars” is hoping to attract.
“Right now everybody’s looking to integrate stars from YouTube into traditional television,” says Karen North, a professor of digital and social media at the University of Southern California. “And the primary reason is to bring in a younger audience.”
That younger audience spends a lot more time watching shows online than they do watching traditional television. The majority of YouTube’s viewers are 35 and under. The median age of “Dancing With the Stars”‘ viewers is 60.
Advertising Age reporter Jeanine Poggi is skeptical. “I’m not sure if her audience will translate over,” Poggi says. “But, I mean, Bethany Mota has such a big following. Her social presence and … being able to promote the show. That in and of itself is a huge draw for ABC.”
Brian Steinberg, TV reporter at Variety, says the Mota news is a sign of things to come.
“It’s an interesting gambit to see if someone who’s a viral star has what it takes to become a broadcast star,” Steinberg says.
YouTube stars often have a niche following, he says, but prime time requires a different kind of star power — one that attracts a diverse and broad-based audience. So ABC’s gamble will hinge not just on Mota’s ability to rhumba, but also on the online buzz she creates when the show’s new season starts September 15.