We are in the era of peak TV. Hundreds of expensive, scripted television shows are splayed across streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime. Netflix itself is now expected to spend $13 billion on original content this year. And yet, these networks can struggle to reach viewers outside of the core adult market.
That’s where Brat hopes to make its mark. The LA-based production studio and media company makes scripted dramas such as Chicken Girls on platforms like YouTube targeting a purely teen audience. And unlike Netflix, Brat is built from the ground up to keep production costs low: Rob Fishman, co-founder of Brat, says that “We are spending in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for every season” for their shows, instead of what can be seven figures an episode in the Netflix world.
Wide distribution to a young audience and that cost-effectiveness has proven to be a compelling elixir for investors, who handed the company $30 million in capital. The fundraise was led by Anchorage Capital, and comes just a few months after the company’s previous $10 million fundraise last year.
For Fishman and his co-founder Darren Lachtman, this is familiar terrain. They previously founded Niche, an influencer marketing platform that matched social media stars to brands, which sold to Twitter for a rumored $50 million. Now they want to empower those very same influencers to build their own brands.
Fishman says the key question for Brat is “How do we become a youth culture brand.” The teens today are increasingly getting their content from vloggers on YouTube, the most popular of which can have millions of subscribers. Those videos are authentic, real and cheap, but this talent has no outlet to push the quality of their content up a rung. “Besides Netflix, no one is making TV for the internet,” Fishman explained.
Brat wants to create a middle ground for video content, a space where teens can watch some of their favorite vloggers, but with production values and creativity that is more attuned to a classic Hollywood production studio rather than a bedroom. With Chicken Girls, the studio started with four-minute scripted shows, but has steadily increased its length over the first season, ending with a season finale of 22 minutes. Season two is now underway. Fishman says that the show received “10 million views over a half an hour.”
The challenge is to push quality higher while keeping expenses low. “When you watch us film, it’s 20-person crews … this looks like a set, but we are doing it for 1/100th the cost,” Fishman explained. Even with a laser-focus on efficiency though, Brat has to differentiate through superior content. “The minute we make something that could be seen on one of these Vlogger channels, what is special for us? What’s distinctive?” Fishman noted. “That is the question that motivates us across everything we do – what are we doing that no one else is doing?”
The studio also takes its inspiration from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As it pulls in talent from the vlogging world with each unique show, it places them all in the same “high school universe” so that viewers can start with familiarity with the launch of each show. The model also helps to organically circulate viewership across its shows.
Ultimately, the company is targeting this Gen Z demographic for its spending power. Fishman says the Gen Z crowd has spending power in the tens of billions, but advertisers struggle to reach them. Cable advertising is still tens of billions itself, and he believes there is an opportunity to migrate some of that spend to online video with the right level of quality and targeted demo.
It’s an ambitious play, and now with an ambitious production budget, the race is on to become the defining brand for a rising group of Gen Zers.