Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Google and Viacom Team Up Again–Brace Yourself For “Fred: The Movie”

There is a very, very good chance that if you’re reading this site, you’re not a fan of “Fred.” But there are lots of Web surfers who are. More than 1.9 million of them subscribe to his YouTube channel.

So Fred, a character created by Nebraska teenager Lucas Cruikshank, is indeed getting his own TV movie next month.

That’s interesting, because it marks one of the first times a character constructed entirely on the Web has crossed over into the mainstream. And it’s sort of interesting, because the stuff Cruikshank makes is so awful.

Here’s a sample, but be warned: This is sort of the video equivalent to “Metal Machine Music,” except no one seems to be high. And it’s really popular.

Most interesting, though, is the company backing the movie. That would be Nickelodeon, the kids’ cable channel owned by Viacom (VIA). Which, for now, at least, continues to fight Google (GOOG) and YouTube in a three-year-old copyright suit. But that’s not stopping the network from embracing a YouTube star.

This is a second recent example of Viacom and YouTube working together, at arm’s length, while they continue to face off in court. In June, Viacom’s MTV unit agreed to start selling ads on YouTube for Warner Music Group’s (WMG) videos.

But Viacom still won’t work directly with YouTube, which makes promoting a YouTube-celebrity movie a little tricky. There’s no mention of the Fred movie anywhere on Fred’s official YouTube channel. And if you want to see the official trailer, which describes him as an “Internet sensation,” you’ll have to look somewhere other than on YouTube. Viacom is running it on its own site, on its own video player.

Again, you’ve been warned: