HeyUSA, the online travel show featuring YouTube stars Grace Helbig and Mamrie Hart, has been picked up by Conde Nast Entertainment's recently launched online venture, TheScene.com. Eight half-hour episodes of the crowd-sourced series, featuring Helbig and Hart kibbitzing from Cape Cod to Alaska, will be released simultaneously on Oct. 15.The episodes will appear exclusively on TheScene for a week before being syndicated to the site's 20-plus content partners, including AOL, Yahoo and Roku, said Whitney Howard, Conde Nast's SVP of business development and strategy.
“HeyUSA is a perfect example of the type of engaging, premium programming that will find a home on THE SCENE and resonate with our audience of influential millennials,” said Howard. “We’re excited to partner with Astronauts Wanted to give Grace and Mamrie’s fans access to their adventures.”
The site already had launched online video operations for 11 Conde Nast magazine brands, including Wired, Vanity Fair and Vogue. It also has cut deals with notable brands such as Major League Soccer, ABC, Forbes, Deadline corporate sibling Variety and the comedy collective JASH (which includes Sarah Silverman, Michael Cera and Reggie Watts).
The distribution deal marks a quick return on investment for show creator Astronauts Wanted, the online joint venture between former MTV Networks Chairman and CEO Judy McGrath and Sony Music Entertainment. Billy Parks, Astronauts Wanted's chief content officer, announced in late June that HeyUSA had begun taping its two stars in interesting locations around the country as suggested by their millions of fans on social media. The start of taping came without a broader distribution deal in place, though Parks expressed (obviously well-founded) optimism that a deal would materialize soon. The show was purposely built to feel more like a program on traditional television than a YouTube episode, even if its heavy use of social media to help guide the show's development is a wildly new approach.
To build fan interest ahead of the HeyUSA October debut, Astronauts Wanted has released blooper reels, behind-the-scenes material, mini-trailers and other video content each week, and helped back Helbig and Hart's social-media outreach to fans on Instagram, Twitter and elsewhere using the hashtag #heyusa.
Parks said that social outreach would continue as taping wraps up, then accelerate closer to the Oct. 15 launch. Earlier this month, Helbig was named to star in a pilot for a new comedy/talk show on E! Entertainment.
Howard said TheScene.com has signed content deals with other notable YouTube creators since its mid-July launch, including a series called Beauty Recovered from Kandee Johnson and The Single Life, a scripted comedy featuring Taryn Southern.
Astronauts Wanted's Parks and Nick Shore are executive producers of HeyUSA with Bleecker Street Entertainment's Ken Treusch.
Here's the trailer for HeyUSA:
And here's one of the behind-the-scenes videos Astronauts Wanted has posted of Hart and Helbig during the taping of the show, in this case, a couple of weeks ago in Provincetown, Mass., at the tip of Cape Cod.