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Fullscreen CEO George Strompolos on Premium Content and Making Viewers Pay

Fullscreen is looking to create television-grade programming that could reach audiences in new ways with shows that they'd be willing to pay for.

The architect of one of the biggest YouTube networks talked for the first time about delving into premium content — and new ways to distribute video to viewers.

Speaking at Code/Media: San Francisco, Fullscreen’s George Strompolos said the digital media company is exploring the next phase of its growth after receiving an infusion of capital from Otter Media. The joint Web venture of AT&T and the Chernin Group assumed a controlling stake in Fullscreen on Oct. 17.

Strompolos said Fullscreen has no plans to leave YouTube and its ad-supported business on the Web, which has minted millionaires of some young producers. The company he founded in 2011 has built a network of 50,000 content creators on YouTube who collectively reach 500 million subscribers.

Rather, Fullscreen is looking to work with creators to produce television-grade programming that could reach audiences in new ways — shows that they’d be willing to pay for, much as television viewers now do for content delivered via cable or satellite distributors.

“Surprisingly, the young audiences are paying for things,” Strompolos said. “We do live events … and a lot of fans are paying to see those experiences, they’re buying merchandise.”

Strompolos said some of the content might be packaged into programming bundles to entice subscribers. That’s how Crunchyroll has attracted “hundreds of thousands” of subscribers to its Japanese animation, he said.

Asked why Fullscreen didn’t choose to remain independent, Strompolos said he believes his company can create “massive value” with the help of media veterans like Peter Chernin, who for years was a senior executive at Twentieth Century Fox.

The recognition that young viewers, ages 13 to 30, are finding entertainment in new ways is what motivated a series of Web investments by mainstream media conglomerates, including Disney’s $500 million acquisition of YouTube network Maker Studios.

“With us, it was Chernin and AT&T,” Strompolos said. “We want to create a once-in-a-generation media company.”

Fullscreen subsequently acquired Rooster Teeth, a studio best-known for its videogame-inspired series such as its long-running series “Red vs. Blue.” Strompolos described the studio as the Marvel Studios of the Web video era, attracting young male audiences with its brand of entertainment.

Strompolos debuted footage of Rooster Teeth’s forthcoming “Day 5.” The new series, which has a “Walking Dead” vibe, starts five days after anyone on the planet who was asleep was mysteriously wiped out — and anyone who falls asleep is dead.

“It’s a great example of the premium quality,” he said. “In my view that looks like the quality of premium cable.”

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