Despite what some have speculated, /DRIVE isn't dead. In fact, the online automotive network is returning to a full week of programming on April 29. That means Chris Harris doesn't have to do all the work himself, as he has been for the past couple of months.
I just got off Google Chat with /DRIVE partner J.F. Musial, who spilled the beans on the new /DRIVE season, why there are programming "seasons," what shows are coming up, and what's taken so goddamn long to get /DRIVE back on the air, or whatever the internet's called.
M.S.: Hey JF, I hear /DRIVE Season 6 is launching next week. Is that true?
J.F.: Absolutely true, finally. A little later then we had expected, but I appreciate the fans holding out the past two months while we regrouped.
M.S.: What was the holdup all about?
J.F.: Several reasons, but the most signifiant was the result of our success from year one. As many already know, /DRIVE is part of YouTube's continued plans to create more original content on their platform. Instead of viewers sticking around for two to three minutes on YouTube, only watching burnout videos and cats running into walls, /DRIVE was created to keep viewers engaged for longer periods of time. Last year, we were the first Original Content series to launch, way ahead of everyone else. Come January of this year, we surpassed our viewership and subscription goals by nearly 2x. With that came a lot of questions as to where we wanted to expand the brand. The past three months have been filled with meeting after meeting trying to establish where we see /DRIVE growing.
I also think it is VERY important to treat online content just as you would television content. If we kept publishing episodes after episode with no break, our content would lose its value. By taking extended breaks, much like "The Office" would, it gives our hosts time to rest, relax, and think of new creative content that keeps the audience entertained. Years ago, we made a big mistake by never sun-setting content. Look at Garage419 (Matt Farah's erstwhile show on Next New Networks): Some awesome stuff there, but when its always being pumped out, the awesome stuff sometimes gets buried by the not-so-awesome stuff.
M.S.: What are the shows airing in Season 6?
J.F.: /TUNED returns with Matt Farah, Chris Harris continues with /CHRIS HARRIS ON CARS, /DRIVEN will launch halfway through the season as will /DRIVE CLEAN. With Season 7, we'll see /BIG MUSCLE return. Our motorsports show, /SHAKEDOWN, will be every week on Fridays with host Leo Parente. We're also working on bringing more episodes of /INSIDE KOENIGSEGG for later in the summer, as well as a few new shows which we're not ready to announce. Road Testament will be weekly as well, but we're renaming it as AFTER /DRIVE and changing up the format slightly.
M.S.: Wait, does that mean I have to do more hosting? Who thought that was a good idea?
J.F.: Despite what you may think, Mike, the audience loves you.... and more importantly, we love you. Which is why we're sending you to China for a special!
M.S.: China? I thought you said you were taking me out for Chinese?
J.F.: Too late. Flights already booked.
M.S.: Crap. So why does drive break its programming into "seasons"? You know it's not TV, right?
J.F.: We're in this very interesting phase for how consumers watch content. Our analytics are showing less people watching our content on their computer browser, but more people are watching on mobile devices and on things like AppleTV. Yes, our content is on YouTube, but we look at /DRIVE as being quality original content. We're not TV, but we're not internet video. We're in this new space that I'm not sure anyone can really define. By breaking the content up into seasons, we're essentially training the audience as to when to expect certain shows. Like I said before, if we never stopped producing content, /DRIVE would have little value. Too much of anything is bad. By rolling everything into seasons, it makes it easier for us to plan quality content, plan cross promotion, and more importantly, bundle what we have to advertisers.
M.S.: Social engineering? Are you a h4xx0r?
J.F.: In a way, everything we do follows some formula. Thanks to our Google Analytics, we can follow trends. By the way, have you ever seen a Nielsen set top box? I haven't.
M.S.: Actually I knew a Nielsen family. They only watched PBS and pay-per-view porn, just to screw with the system. Can you give us any previews of what we'll see during Season 6?
J.F.: We've hired Kimi for 5 minutes to sit in a room and stare at a bottle of Vodka. And a few cars.... Our promo will be released in two days.
M.S.: Touché. We'll wait.