MrBeast signs deal with Amazon MGM in sign of creator economy’s surge

Mike Powers
MrBeast signs deal with Amazon MGM in sign of creator economy’s surge

YouTube star MrBeast has struck a deal with Amazon MGM to produce a massive reality TV competition game show — a watershed moment for the entertainment industry that shows how online content creators with millions of followers are being sought by more traditional entertainment companies.

The show, called “Beast Games,” would be the first foray into traditional entertainment by MrBeast, whose real name is Jimmy Donaldson. Donaldson has soared to success on YouTube in recent years, becoming the individual with the most subscribers on the platform.

Known for outrageous stunts such as burying himself alive or re-creating the show “Squid Game” as a reality TV-style competition, Donaldson also has a reputation for combining his internet shows with a charitable aspect, such as rescuing 1,000 abandoned dogs or building 100 wells in Africa. Until now, however, his entertainment has not extended beyond the internet.

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“Beast Games” will consist of 1,000 contestants competing for a $5 million cash prize, the largest single prize that’s ever been offered on television or streaming. Donaldson will host and executive produce the show, which will be available in 240 countries and territories.

“MrBeast has captured the attention and imagination of fans of all ages, from all walks of life, and all over the world,” Jennifer Salke, head of Amazon MGM Studios, said in a statement. “We are excited to work with Jimmy and his talented team to bring his brilliant, high production, and stakes-raising concepts to Beast Games for our global customers to experience.”

Donaldson has constructed his own studio for creating content in Greenville, N.C., and he will continue to operate his social media business throughout the Amazon show, according to a person familiar with his business operations.

Donaldson recently told Time that his channel earns $600 million to $700 million per year (much of which gets funneled back into his videos). “Each video does a couple million in ad revenue, a couple million in brand deals,” he said. “I’ve reinvested everything to the point of — you could claim — stupidity, just believing that we would succeed. And it’s worked out.”

Amazon beat out at least one other major streaming service to land the deal, according to the Hollywood Reporter, and Donaldson will have creative control over the show. News of the deal was first reported by Puck News in January, which claimed the deal to be worth $100 million.

“When MrBeast first told us about his concept for the show, we were blown away by his ambition to make Beast Games the biggest reality competition series ever,” said Vernon Sanders, head of television for Amazon MGM Studios. “We’d like to thank Aaron DeBevoise, Nic Paul, and the Spotter team for the introduction and kick-starting this journey for us.” (Amazon founder Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

YouTubers who have attempted to jump from the internet to traditional Hollywood have had lackluster results. In 2010, YouTube star Lucas Cruikshank, who was the first creator to reach 1 million subscribers on the platform, released “Fred: The Movie,” based on the character Fred Figglehorn, whom he played on his channel. It featured celebrities such as John Cena and Jennette McCurdy. The movie bombed with a rare 0 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes and received universally negative reviews.

In 2019, NBC gave a talk show deal to top YouTuber Lilly Singh to replace “Last Call With Carson Daly,” who moved to the “Today” show. However, the show struggled to gain traction and ended after two seasons.

More recently, TikTok stars have attempted to crack into the streaming universe with reality shows such as “Hype House” on Netflix, which lasted only one season, and “The D’Amelio Show” on Hulu, which has run for three seasons.

“My goal is to make the greatest show possible and prove YouTubers and creators can succeed on other platforms,” MrBeast said in a statement. “Amazon gave me the creative control I need to try and make it happen. I hope to make the YouTube community proud.”

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