By Sahil Patel
Even though Grace Helbig has a talk show on E! to plan for, that’s not going to stop her frequent collaborator, Mamrie Hart, from traveling across the country to meet fans and get into interesting adventures.
The comedienne and YouTube star, best known for her YouTube series “You Deserve a Drink,” is about to embark on season two of “#HeyUSA,” a travel series in partnership with Astronauts Wanted *No Experience Necessary and Conde Nast Entertainment. The series will follow Hart as she treks across the country, visiting different cities and going on different missions.
In season one of “#HeyUSA,” Hart did the same thing, with her good friend Helbig right by her side. This time around, with Helbig sidelined by her other projects, Hart will be joined by five other prominent YouTube stars, each of whom was selected by fans. Tyler Oakley (6.6 million subscribers), Jenna Marbles (14.8 million subscribers), Kingsley (3 million subscribers), Colleen Ballinger (5.7 million subscribers), and Flula (490,000 subscribers) will join Hart on different legs of the trip.
That said, Helbig won’t be completely absent from the second installment of “#HeyUSA.” She’s on board as the “puppet master” of the whole thing; she will control which cities Hart and company visit and reveal each new location at the top of every episode. Locations and activities will be once again be crowdsourced from fans.
Season one of “#HeyUSA” was also notable for using different social platforms to let fans follow the YouTube stars in real-time across the entire trip. In addition to short-form clips on YouTube, Helbig and Hart shared updates across platforms like Twitter and Instagram. Only months later did a long-form version of the series premiere on The Scene.
Season two, which begins production next week, will have a modified version of that plan. Hart and her co-conspirators will still share updates across social platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and Vine. The Scene premiere will just come much earlier.
“We feel that it’s a show that can stand an episodic release,” says Nick Shore, chief creative strategist at Astronauts Wanted, a digital and social content studio founded by former MTV Networks CEO Judy McGrath. “There will still be short-form social pieces that drive people to the episodes, but rather than release a large amount of content along the way, we’d rather save the best” for the full episodes.
“I’m going to try as much as possible to keep the social media [aspect of the show] in real time,” adds Hart. “The actual videos will go up later, but we are still incorporating people’s suggestions on what to do, and I’ll totally be tweeting and instagramming the entire time.”
Starting April 16, “#HeyUSA” will air every Thursday and Wednesday on The Scene, a video platform launched by CNE last year. The entire season will run for 10 episodes, with each YouTube collaborator joining Hart for two episodes. The first episode of the two weekly episodes will be a “tasting menu” of sorts, allowing Hart and her fellow star to explore different places and activities in the city they’re visiting. The second episode will have more of a story arc, with a focus on one particular activity that “takes more effort,” says Shore.
Season two is sponsored by Hilton, a deal that came as a result of the second-annual “Final Fronts” presentations held by media-buying agency OMD last fall. Astronauts Wanted and CNE pitched a second season to “#HeyUSA” as part of their presentation, which elicited interest from Hilton, says Shore.
“Hilton will be integrated into the series and episodes,” adds Whitney Howard, SVP of business development and strategy at CNE. “You can see how they would be a natural fit.”
“I believe we are going to have some behind-the-scenes stuff on their site,” adds Hart.
“#HeyUSA” is produced by Astronauts Wanted for CNE and The Scene. Executive producers include Hart, Helbig, and Bleecker Street Entertainment’s Ken Treusch and Vincent Nastri.
Season one of the series generated 6.39 million total views, 3.85 social engagements, and 186 million impressions across all platforms, according to Astronauts Wanted. Beyond voting on the activities, fans also got incredibly involved by creating art such as GIFs from the trip. “We were really blown away what happened once we started to create a real dialogue between the show and the audience,” says Shore.
The decision to bring the series back for another season was a no-brainer, then. “It was a great success in terms of reaching the type of audience that we are trying to reach — the influential, millennial viewer,” says Howard. “Natural decision from our vantage point to do season two.”
While premiering first on The Scene, “#HeyUSA” will also be syndicated across CNE’s network of video partners, including YouTube, AOL, Yahoo, Roku, and Dailymotion.