Epic Studios drops on YouTube

The iThentic, Farmhouse Productions and duopoly-made series is tapping YouTube star EpicLLOYD's 500,000 followers to find an audience.
Epic Studios

iThentic CEO Jonas Diamond says the launch of Epic Studios, a scripted web series led by YouTube star EpicLLOYD of Epic Rap Battles of History, could be a game-changer for the 11-year-old Toronto-based digital producer.

Dropping today on EpicLLOYD’s YouTube channel, the 13-part project, produced by iThentic, duopoly and Farmhouse Productions for Disney-owned content network Maker Studios, sees the producers trying to circumnavigate today’s greatest challenge for content creators: finding engaged audiences. 

L.A.-based EpicLLOYD (full name: Lloyd Ahlquist) brings with him a significant audience, with just shy of half a million subscribers to his YouTube channel. He is part of the Maker family, which is how the producers got Maker to board the series initially. The scripted show sees Ahlquist inheriting a failing recording studio and doing his best to keep it afloat.

Traditionally iThentic has worked to build audiences from the ground up, with little or no star power attached. For Epic, it’s the first time the producer has worked with a personality with such an established online audience. In addition, Ahlquist is one of the creators of the YouTube channel Epic Rap Battles of History, which has a subscriber count of more than 14.2 million and has garnered around three billion views in total.

With this in mind, the production companies felt the two traditional windowing strategies used for releasing web series (one episode per week or everything at once) weren’t suitable for the launch. The prodcos instead sought to balance these two models by launching four episodes on April 26, followed by three further episodes (approximately seven minutes each) every Wednesday for the next three weeks.

“The opportunity to tap into a pre-existing fan base meant that it made sense for us to be able to continually feed that audience  but to do it over the course of 13 weeks seemed like a stretch and all at once seemed too rushed,” said Diamond.

Targeting a primary audience of 16 to 34 year olds, Ahlquist has also been looking to cross-promote the series with other YouTube stars in the music-centred ecosystem ahead of the launch. For example, Ahlquist performed a rap collaboration with Baby Ariel, a star of the karoake app Musical.ly, which has been downloaded more than 90 million times. Baby Ariel alone has a social following of more than 15 million.

Epic Studios, created by Ahlquist, Jill Goslicky and Aaron Krebs, first crossed the radar of Catherine Tait, iThentic co-founder and president of duopoly, at Just For Laughs ComedyPro in 2014. The series is funded by Independent Production Fund, Ontario Media Development Corporation (OMDC) and Maker Studios.

Another crucial piece of the puzzle for iThentic, said Diamond, was that Maker Studios consented to the series to be released via the EpicLLOYD YouTube channel, rather than its branded comedy channel on YouTube. Though it would have been possible to direct Ahlquist’s audience to Maker’s YouTube channel, the series can maximize its viewer potential by going direct Ahlquist’s fans via his channel.

Epic Studios is written by Josh Gal (Working The Engels) and Amanda Brooke Perrin (Spun Out) and directed by Rob Stefaniuk (Anxietyville). Gal serves as showrunner on the project.

The release of Epic Studios is iThentic’s second this month following the launch of Save Me, a 10-part digital original comedy series for the CBC.