Assuming our Dancing with the Stars partnership spoilers are right, this will be the first season that DWTS has cast a YouTube star as one of the stars on the cast. For those following along at home, I’m talking about Bethany Mota. I imagine many reading this are thinking “Who’s that?” and is someone on YouTube really a “star”?
The answer to the first question can be answered by checking out Bethany Mota’s YouTube videos. The answer to the second question is absolutely! In fact, I’d suggest that a YouTube star is likely at a marked advantage over many of the other stars on DWTS. Let’s take a look at why I think this is the case.
First, I’ve written previously about the way the judges score the dances and how it basically makes the judges scores irrelevant. I won’t rehash that here, but we’ve basically seen this proven out season over season. The judges scores have some impact, but it’s much smaller than the 50% portion of the score that they’re given. As many readers tell us, “DWTS is just a popularity contest.” My answer is always, “You’re right.”
We’ll save whether DWTS should be a dance contest or a popularity contest for another post. The reality is that especially as you near the end of the show it becomes a popularity contest. Whoever can garner the most votes will win the show. There’s a reason why Olympic athletes and Football players have garnered so many wins on DWTS. How many people watch the Olympics and Football? That popularity translates into getting a lot of votes.
Let’s get back to the YouTube star. Are YouTube stars very popular? Do people really even know who these YouTube stars are? Let’s take a look at the social media reach of Bethany Mota:
7.1+ Million subscribers on YouTube
544.6+ Million views on YouTube
1.9+ Million subscribers on her second YouTube Channel
47.1+ Million views on her second YouTube Channel
3.7+ Million followers on Instagram
1.9+ Million followers on Twitter
1.3+ Million likes on Facebook
No doubt there’s quite a bit of overlap in these social channels, but that’s an amazing following. I still remember a few of the stars who literally started their Twitter account when they knew they were going to be on the show. Sure, some of us love to wax nostalgic seeing these stars we loved as kids back in the limelight, but familiarity doesn’t equal fandom.
Even a star for whom everyone is familiar and has lots of followers on social media doesn’t mean that those followers will get out and vote. Remember that DWTS is a popularity contest. I can assure you that Bethany’s fans will be extremely active in the voting. This was proven when Bethany won the Teen Choice Award.
For those who discount the power of social media, remember how Mark Cuban and Woz were able to stay on DWTS much longer than they should have stayed. The biggest reason they stuck around is that they leveraged social media to get people to vote. Bethany Mota and other YouTube stars that are on DWTS have a built in social media voting machine. Compare that to the extremely popular Alfonso Ribeiro that so many know and love. He only has 112,000 followers on Twitter. We love the man and the memory of his acting, but do we love him enough to vote? I think YouTube stars have that kind of voting fan base.
Many long time viewers of the show are likely asking themselves, do my votes really matter? I think the regular DWTS viewer votes do matter. If they didn’t, Gil Marini and Ralph Macchio would have never done as well as they did. They (and many others) were great dancers and great personalities on the show and America fell in love with them.
Last season DWTS averaged about 14 million viewers. Some subset of those viewers voted (many did not). That puts Bethany’s numbers above in some perspective. However, what’s not to say that a YouTube star won’t also be a great dancer and as likable as any of the other stars that have been successful garnering votes from regular DWTS viewers who never knew them previously? You don’t get 7 million subscribers and 544 million views on YouTube if you’re not at least somewhat likable. So, you combine the existing following these YouTube stars have together with the new fans they’ll garner while being on the show and that seems like a huge advantage in the popularity contest that is DWTS.
Let me be clear that this doesn’t mean they should be declared the winner before the show even starts. The other stars are stars and popular for their reasons as well. Plus, the YouTube star could totally fall flat (literally on the dance floor or figuratively with their personality). However, I give them better than a puncher’s chance at doing well on the show.
Why Are YouTube Stars Great for DWTS?
The other reason why I think it’s genius of the producers to bring on a YouTube star is what I believe it will do for the shows ratings. I’m not ready to predict that we’ll see a huge spike in overall viewers of DWTS thanks to one YouTube star. However, I won’t be surprised if we see an increase in the number of younger viewers that watch to see their favorite YouTube star on DWTS. DWTS has always suffered a bit by having a large number of viewers, but suffering a little bit in the younger viewer demographic.
I hear all the time from older viewers who say things like “Do advertisers not care about me? I spend money!” This isn’t the place to solve this problem in TV ratings, but the reality is that advertisers make their buying decisions based on the younger demographic. Good, bad, or otherwise, that’s the reality of TV ad spend.
We’ll see how the ratings play out this season. One star on a cast of 13 only has so much sway. Especially when there’s a new executive producer, a new judge, and the fact that DWTS is in its 19th season which all will influence the DWTS ratings as well. However, the potential upside of bringing a YouTube star on DWTS seems like a risk well worth taking.
What do you think about having a YouTube star on DWTS?