Kevin Hart’s Laugh Out Loud service launched today after two years in the making — compiling new talent, developing projects and getting into production — basically building a comedy streaming network from scratch. The mobile streaming service has been designed as a platform to launch new comedians, original scripted and unscripted comedies, stand-up specials, live-events and (how great is this?) offering audiences all seven seasons of Def Comedy Jam.
“We want to give people one destination for comedy instead of searching all over the Internet. My goal is to make the world laugh. I want this to be a representation of comedy from all new talent whomever you are, wherever you come from,” said Hart who noted how hard it is for talented people to get that one opportunity. He said that he wanted others to get their chance, be it comedians, writers, producers, directors or acting talent. “This is an artist friendly network. I’ve been given this platform, and I’m saying come share in it. There aren’t a lot of opportunities out there. People know how hard you have to work to get that one opportunity. I’m saying here it is.”
The service, he said last night and reiterated to Deadline today is colorblind, open to everyone. Now that he has launched domestically, the company is already looking to expand internationally. To that end, they are partnering with online poker card room PokerStars as one of their partners.
Asked how he will measure the service’s success, Hart said from the amount of downloads through the app and by the feedback they receive from consumers. The service has already had 30K to 40K downloads on the first day. He said his company — which consists right now of six people — is readying to grow as well. They will hire about seven to 10 interns and one more strong digital development exec to add to that team.
Last night, that team — along with partners Lionsgate — enjoyed a launch party where Laugh Out Loud President Jeff Clanagan, Lionsgate CEO Jon Feltheimer and Hart all took to the stage to introduce the service. The idea behind it is to tap into a generation who is consuming media in drastically different ways than they have in the past.
“A few days ago, I was reading that 18 to 24 year-olds have reduced their viewing of traditional, linear television by 50% over the past six years. 50%,” said Feltheimer last night. “(Laugh Out Loud) is just one of the ways that our industry is moving ahead to give these young audiences what they want and how they want it.”
Lionsgate began its relationship with Hart in 2012 with the hit film Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain. Shortly after, Feltheimer said he asked Hart if he might be interested in partnering on a streaming service. Hart was hesitant, said Feltheimer, until Lionsgate said it would put up all the money and Hart would own and run the business “and that got his attention.” The partnership has since produced four television series, a social adventure game and now Laugh Out Loud.
“The hesitation was me asking myself, is it worth putting all the time and energy into something and not having a significant piece of what it is,” said Hart. “I told him that I didn’t have the money to do that. He said, ‘no, this is about building a business with you at the center.’ When I heard that they would fund it and I would have full control and 50% ownership, there was no way I was walking away from that.” After that, Hart and his colleagues found the business model that made sense for him. “When we got it, I hit the ground running, and I’ve never looked back since.”
He said the he and Feltheimer have built not only a great working relationship but a strong friendship built on trust.
Since then, Hart and his team have gotten into business with a bevy of digital superstar comedy talents such as GloZell, King Bach, Emmanuel Hudson, DC Young Fly, Draya Michele, David So, Timothy DeLaGhetto and Anjelah Johnson (MADtv, viral sensation Bon Qui Qui). The key to all this is that they are big in the social media universe.
Hart himself has a social media universe of 112.1M which includes 53.8M Instagram followers, 34.4 Twitter followers and 23.8 Facebook fans, according to the latest numbers from RelixMix this morning. He is in the Top 20 of actors/musicians in social media muscle and at the top of the pack in terms of most social comedians (Ellen DeGeneres has 146.1M fans/followers in her social media universe).
Laugh Out Loud’s Clanagan called the streaming service last night, “the biggest disruptor in comedy.” And there have been many over the years, but a lot has changed since the days of Johnny Carson — once the biggest national launching pad for new comedians. Thanks to Carson, national audiences were introduced to Joan Rivers, George Carlin, Andy Kaufman, David Brenner, Freddie Prinze, Jerry Seinfeld, Steven Wright, the late great Garry Shandling, Roseanne Barr, Jay Leno, Bill Maher, Jim Carrey, and Ellen DeGeneres, to name only a few.
“When I started doing standing up comedy, all everyone wanted to do was get an HBO special,” said Hart who added there were only certain opportunities that comedians could look to. “Now, I’m saying here is an audience you can build on. You can build your audience based on my audience. I want to break new talent. I want to be a guy who changes the model of comedy and how it is (consumed).”
Because of the way kids digest media today, the media world now in an era of ‘disintermediation,’ meaning that there is little need for a middle man anymore as the Internet allows celebrities to engage their audiences one-on-one and content creators can go directly to fans. Because of that, brands are being built overnight from YouTube sensations. Hart and Lionsgate recognize this.
We have seen successful models of this in recent years with the launch and subsequent success of Awesomeness TV which realized that GenZ (12 to 24 year-olds) were basically being ignored. So it began seizing on the teen celebs and stars of the Internet and ended up providing content tailored specifically for that market. In two to three years, Awesomeness went from a YouTube channel to a company that is worth almost a billion dollars.
One of the offerings on Laugh Out Loud is the hidden camera series, Kevin Hart: Lyft Legend sponsored by Lyft. So Deadline had to ask that it seems that further corporate partnerships of this nature would be a natural, no?
“The beauty of having myself as CEO, I’m able to leverage (my name) and they help me (with production cost) and I help them,” said Hart. He expects that the company will enter into more corporate partnerships when and where it works organically and creatively and and are looking to its 50/50 partner Lionsgate and its strong corporate relationships to see who else might make sense for Laugh Out Loud.
“Nike is a partner of mine so we are already having conversations with what we can to do together.” Hart has a shoe that he promotes for Nike with the words “Find Your Inner Athlete” and “Don’t Stop Grinding.”
The comedian/actor/entrepreneur is also running a Marathon in November in New York which just might be chronicled on Laugh Out Loud. “The idea is that you can do anything you put your mind to. I’m doing this out of pure will and determination and I’ll use my personality to document these things.”
Some of those lending support to Hart at last night’s launch event included Tiffany Haddish (Girl’s Trip), Chris Paul from the Houston Rockets, and Snoop Dogg, who kept entire party high with what seemed like an industrial strength-fog machine (yes, you could have cured a ham above our heads).
Hart will next be seen in Sony’s new Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle this December.