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Convention Center’s Summer Sleeper Hit: VidCon

The once-a-year event that brings YouTube stars under one roof with their screaming fans is set to return to Anaheim.

It’s called VidCon—a convention for makers and consumers of online videos that started in 2010 in Los Angeles and moved to the Anaheim Convention Center two years later.

The show has grown exponentially in that time, much like YouTube and other online video venues.

The debut event drew 1,400 or so to a hotel.

This year’s edition drew 18,000 to Anaheim—many of them screaming teens, to be sure, but with plenty of “content creators, entertainment industry executives, and YouTube personalities” also arriving over the three-day run, according to VidCon LLC, the Missoula, Mont.-based producer of the show.

VidCon will be back in OC in 2015, according to Steve Honig, a spokesperson for the show. He and Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau President Jay Burress said dates had not been set for next year’s show.

Burress said the bureau is meanwhile seeking a multiyear deal with VidCon.

“It’s an up-and-coming, fast-growing show with huge upside,” Burress said. “I’d love to see them remain in Anaheim to grow and for that to be one of the great” shows in our year.

Young Crowds

VidCon crowds skew young—matching the age of a lot of the stars of the medium.

The low barrier of entry—a kid with a cellphone can create content for YouTube—has led to a proliferation of “channels,” including some that have drawn astonishing numbers of viewers. The biggest YouTube personalities attract tens of millions of subscribers to their channels, often doing little more than posting videos on their own lives.

The latest trend is to group YouTube personalities in a “multichannel” approach that has the Google-owned video website looking more like a formal broadcaster.

The potential for VidCon has Burress looking to the South by Southwest show as a model. The Austin, Texas, gathering began in 1987 and now attracts some 150,000 people to film, music and technology offerings for 10 days each March.

YouTube reports that 1 billion unique users watch 6 billion hours of video a month, and its channels are adding millions of subscribers daily. About 20% of its traffic is from the U.S.

Entertainment trade publication Variety last month charted the burgeoning movement and named its most popular personalities—who are now branching into books, conventional television and film, Internet radio and other media.

The highest-ranked personality on the site is a 24-year-old Swede with 29 million subscribers who watch him play video games and tell jokes. He has 417 million monthly page views, according to estimates.

VidCon’s increasing role as a place for YouTube tastemakers was reflected in the lineup of speakers for this year’s show. DreamWorks Animation Chief Executive Jeffrey Katzenberg took the podium, and sponsors and backers of the show included numerous brands, with Irvine-based Kia Motors America prominent among them.

Thirty-something brothers John and Hank Green founded the show. Hank runs VidCon from Montana, while John writes young-adult fiction.

The brothers, both of whom declined to comment for this story, started a YouTube channel in 2007. They called it VlogBrothers—Vlog for video blog—a show its Wikipedia page said is about their lives. The description brings to mind an update on “Seinfeld” that’s “not about anything in particular.”

The Wikipedia page indicates the Greens are active in YouTube channels beyond their own, as well as other media. Hank founded an environmental technology blog called EcoGeek, and John wrote “The Fault in Our Stars,” which was made into a movie this year.

WonderCon

Anaheim also hosts WonderCon, produced by San Diego Comic Convention, which also presents Comic-Con International in San Diego.

WonderCon started in Northern California in 1987 and moved to Anaheim in 2012. It’s slated for April 3 through 5 next year.

Burress said the bureau also would like to settle on a multiyear deal with WonderCon, which isn’t signed beyond next year.

Organizers estimated attendance at the 2014 show at about 60,000 attendees.

“We have a good relationship with Anaheim, and we’re focusing on 2015,” said David Glanzer, director of marketing and public relations for Comic-Con International.

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