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Does YouTube Red Have Its First Hit in ‘Rhett & Link’s Buddy System’?

Variety logo Variety 3/14/2017 Todd Spangler
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YouTube has seen an apparent surge in demand for one of its original shows, “Rhett & Link’s Buddy System” – nearly five months after its debut.

In the past two weeks YouTube Red’s “Buddy System,” a comedy series starring Rhett McLaughlin and Link Neal, hosts of YouTube daily talk show “Good Mythical Morning,” has been the No. 1 digital series in the U.S. in terms of demand, according to data-research firm Parrot Analytics.

“Rhett & Link’s Buddy System” beat out Netflix’s “Santa Clarita Diet,” “Orange Is the New Black” and “Marvel’s Luke Cage,” Hulu’s “The Path,” and Amazon’s “The Man in the High Castle” and “The Grand Tour” for the weeks ended March 4 and 11, per Parrot Analytics. “Buddy System” premiered on the $10-per-month YouTube Red service last October,

What gives? Parrot Analytics’ analysts speculated that the appearance by Mayim Bialik, of CBS’s “The Big Bang Theory,” on Rhett & Link’s Feb. 28 show likely helped fuel interest in “Buddy System.” It may also simply be the case that the comedy duo’s fanbase has been especially vocal about their enthusiasm for “Buddy System” over the past few weeks.

There are some caveats. First, it’s important to note that Parrot Analytics’ data are not “ratings”: The numbers are not reflective of actual viewing. Rather, the company measures “demand expressions” (indicating intent to view) for a particular title. It bases those on more than 1 billion daily data points, weighting them based on relevance, from sources including YouTube and other video services; activity on social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr; fan and critic blogs and sites; and piracy services.

Meanwhile, “Rhett & Link’s Buddy System” may have led the digital field — but it’s not even close to the most in-demand TV shows. For March 4-11, “Buddy System” averaged 7.1 million demand expressions in the U.S. AMC’s “The Walking Dead” averaged 62.6 million over the same time period, followed by HBO’s “Game of Thrones” with 33.2 million and FX’s “Legion” with 30.2 million.

A YouTube rep said it does not release viewing metrics for its original TV shows and movies, except for the free episodes it has released to promote the series. (Netflix, Hulu and Amazon don’t reveal specific figures for their originals, either.) The free pilot episode of “Rhett & Link’s Buddy System” has 7.4 million views to date.

According to Parrot Analytics, demand metrics for “Buddy System” have been well above those for two other YouTube Red previous high-profile shows – “Scare PewDiePie” and “Escape the Night” hosted by top YouTuber Joey Graceffa – when compared in their first 130 days of release.

“Buddy System” had a 30-day average (from Feb. 5-March 6) of 5.6 million demand expressions, as measured by Parrot. By comparison, “Escape the Night” peaked at about 3 million demand expressions per day within 30 days of release on June 22, 2016, while “Scare PewDiePie” (which was among the first YouTube Red originals) hovered below 1 million daily following its Feb. 10, 2016, debut. But again, those figures aren’t a measure of actual viewing behavior.

Rhett and Link, whose “Good Mythical Morning” channel has nearly 12 million YouTube subscribers, wrote the script for “Buddy System.” In the eight-episode series, Rhett and Link (who are real childhood friends from North Carolina) play themselves. After Link loses his phone, their talk show is hijacked by their mutual ex-girlfriend, who is now an evil infomercial queen and uses their channel to sell her products.

The series was directed by John Fortenberry (“Rescue Me,” “A Night at the Roxbury”) and produced by the duo’s Mythical Entertainment banner in association with YouTube. The cast of “Rhett & Link’s Buddy System” includes Leslie Bibb (“Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby,” “Iron Man”), Page Kennedy (“Blue Mountain State,” “Rush Hour” TV series) and “Saturday Night Live” alumni Chris Parnell and Molly Shannon.

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