There's more than one way to build an alternate broadcast. ESPN tapped the Manning brothers and their unmatched gravitas. Nickelodeon covers the field in slime. There are no bad ideas as the gold rush to discover ancillary programming around the main feed reaches a fever pitch. Some are simply better than others. Like strapping a secondary camera to an existing property that already enjoys massive online fandom, as opposed to trying to build something new. Which is what Amazon will do tomorrow night with the Dude Perfect alternate stream during Thursday Night Football.
The quintet has a proven track record of putting noggins in seats. Over 58 million YouTube subscribers does not fully reflect their popularity among the younger crowd, which come out in droves to their live shows during national tours. It's a fiercely loyal group perhaps undervalued in the public sphere because those who cover sports media tend to skew a little older.
Dude Perfect has a long track record of making videos with professional athletes and those existing relationships caught the eyes of Amazon more than a year ago, when discussions about working together began. While those were going on, DP filmed a video with Bryson DeChambeau at Augusta National in which they competed in an unusual "all-sports" battle on the sacred grounds.
"That was intended for a very specific audience," Tyler Toney, the group's de facto frontman, told The Big Lead. "It was not created for golf fans or the guys who already know the name of all the holes and the flowers they're named after. It was made for kids who may or many not be fans of golf."
He said that a father sent a note about his son, who watched the video and then asked to watch the Masters as a result. "There's a need to bring in a younger audience and we're seen as a potential avenue to do that," he said. "I know that's something we've taken a lot of pride in over the last 13 years. We have found a unique position to be able to do that. It's something we're very excited about. To speak to fans of football but also the opportunity to tie in what we've done."
This is the key. Alternate broadcasts exist because points of entry differ. Drumming up interest in Kansas City Chiefs-Los Angeles Chargers among football zealots is easy. Opening up a sidedoor to potential new fans is a different animal, the secret sauce everyone is hoping to unlock.
"The NFL is the king," Cory Cotton, one of the twins in DP, added. "Gosh, we live in Texas. No one knows that football is the best more than we do. We're just huge fans and the chance to be associated with this huge game-changing media decision, it's wild. The fact that we get to do this is a big opportunity for us.
"We also want that concept to work, right? It's more than just wanting our broadcast to be good. We also really believe in this concept of alternate broadcast. We think there's a lot of value to people all across sports and it's really cool that we get to be on the front lines of it here. We're perfectly positioned to make it really, really fun. When you're making content, what's more important than having it be fun and putting smiles on faces? That's our goal anytime we make anything. If people walk away saying that was really fun, then we've won."
So what should viewers expect? The release announcing the broadcast promises "an entertaining parade of dunk tanks, pudding cannons, special guests, and the occasional world record attempt." Without giving too much away, the Dudes will also try their hand at pass-blocking against a former Pro Bowler. Of paramount importance will be making the experience participatory instead of passive. Just as fans tend to feel as though they are the sixth member and try the trick shots themselves, they will have ample opportunity to lean in and compete themselves.
"Something we're really excited about doing is game-ifying our broadcast," Cotton said. "There's going to be a lot of that. It will be us competing with each other during the game but we're also trying to be smart and fun in terms of bringing the audience at home along with us for the ride and letting them do some things. We've got a lot of social challenges that we're going to be doing where people will have a chance to do the exact challenge that we're doing with some simple stuff that we know everyone has around the house and we're going to be able to throw that up on-screen and give the audience a chance to do it. Which we think is fun and a little bit different than some of the stuff we've seen."
Performing in concert with a live football game is a new challenge. There have been rehearsals to practice, including being presented with the uphill battle of blowout preseason games. But there's no way to completely prepare before kickoff. In talking to the Dudes, though, one gets the sense they are relaxed and ready to go with the flow.
"This is going to be new for us," Toney said. "The game is still No. 1. The good news is, regardless of what we do, especially this week, we should have an entertaining football game. If you're a football fan that's why you're watching. It's nice for us that we just get to be the icing on the cake. The good news is we're not expected to be Tony Romo out there, calling out the next play that's going to happen. We're not expected to be analysts. We don't have to be broadcasters, we have to be alternate broadcasters."
"We like the spot we're in," Cotton said.