On January 31, YouTube Red will launch its biggest dramatic series yet—Step Up: High Water, a spinoff series based on the $650 million Step Up franchise.

To promote the Atlanta-based dance show, YouTube Red is moving outside its comfort zone and onto the big screen with the help of global event cinema brand Fathom Events.

The day before its premiere, January 30, YouTube Red and Fathom Events will unveil Step Up: High Water in 750 theaters nationwide. In addition to screening the pilot of the Lionsgate TV-produced show starring Ne-Yo and Naya Rivera, the event will feature the original Step Up movie starring Channing and Jenna Dewan Tatum and a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the new series.

The move marks a departure for YouTube and the OTT space in general—and depending upon its success, could announce a new trend in the ever-growing content wars.

YouTube Red clearly has a perfect partner in Fathom Events, a brand trying to shift from “alternative content” to “event cinema.”

“We see ourselves as a separate window in the theatrical space,” said Fathom Events CEO Ray Nutt. “We’re a very good complement to people who have content and are trying to get their message out.”

“It’s all about promotional opportunity and getting the message and content in front of an audience and YouTube Red obviously decided that this was an audience that they wanted to be in front of,” he continued.

The venture is a continuation of YouTube Red’s title specific marketing strategy, where promotions vary wildly depending on the content.

In the case of This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, a documentary about a transgender YouTuber from Oscar-winning filmmaker Barbara Kopple, the network premiered it at Sundance, followed by a limited theatrical debut before bringing it to YouTube.

With Step Up: High Water, YouTube is taking an entirely different tack. According to Lauren Verrusion, global communications and public affairs for Google and YouTube, the network hopes to tap into the nostalgia factor with the original Step Up to reignite its built-in fanbase.

Given that Fathom Events is owned by AMC Theatres, Cinemark Theaters and Regal Entertainment Group, the company can reach Step Up fans in droves by utilizing their access to 10 million AMC Stubs members, Regal Crown Club’s 14 million members and a similarly large number of Cinemark Connections members.

“But the biggest way we get our word out is through the inventory we have in the theater,” said Nutt, referring to trailers and print media in theater lobbies.

In addition, Fathom utilizes digital marketing in the form of website ads, search engines, email blasts and newsletters. They’re similarly active on social media, and have been experimenting with radio outreach in the form of ticket giveaways.

“I’ve challenged our marketing department to touch that customer before, during and after because at the end of the day a lot of our events are on weekdays,” said Nutt. “It’s easy to plan to go to that Fathom event on Thursday, but when you see who’s playing on Thursday Night Football… it’s tough to get people off the couch and get them into the theater.”

That means curating programming that boasts exclusive content. In the case of this event—a never before seen look at the making of Step Up: High Water.

“We have to make sure every Fathom Event has something special associated with it so we get them incentivized sometime prior to the event,” said Nutt. “And let’s keep the conversation going after the event so we own that customer all through the life cycle of that content and whatever the next content is that’s coming down the road.”

For its part, YouTube Red has billboards for High Water in New York, LA and Atlanta, a plethora of YouTube videos on the show’s channel, as well as the obvious bounty that is YouTube ads.

While everyone else is trying to create content, Fathom Events is trying to showcase the good stuff, putting the company in a unique position to help networks. Going into 2018 and beyond, the OTT space is a specific target for the company.

“We see OTT platforms as one of those areas and verticals that we can certainly help grow,” said Nutt.

“I don’t think the OTT platforms necessarily need Fathom to promote their platforms,” said Nutt. “But some of the challenges is how do you get their content promoted and in front of an audience that will actually go to YouTube Red and see it. What better way to do it than on a 40 foot screen?”

Experiential marketing has become a must for networks looking to separate themselves amid the clutter—and given that’s Fathom’s whole M.O., the company could prove a powerful ally moving forward.

“We’re always trying to eventize our events, so when you go you’re not just buying a ticket, seeing something and going home,” said Nutt. “You’re having fun, you’re dancing, you’re clapping, you’re cheering—there’s something special about it.”

Come Tuesday January 30, you can bet on some dancing when Step Up and Step Up: High Water light up the big screen. For more information and to buy tickets to the event, check Fathom’s website.


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