Technology

Meet Rooster Teeth, the online video powerhouse coming to Australia

"We make videos for the internet. Not porn."

That's how Gus Sorola sums up Rooster Teeth, the video production company he helped found in 2003 that got its start using video games to act out short, animated comedies. 

Rooster Teeth's network of YouTube channels has a total of more than 25 million subscribers.
Rooster Teeth's network of YouTube channels has a total of more than 25 million subscribers. 

While mostly accurate, his description is decidedly modest, as in the last 12 years Rooster Teeth has grown to become one of the biggest networks of channels on YouTube, racking up more than 4.1 billion views on its primary channel alone. 

If you're older than 21 there's a good chance you've never heard of the company's videos or its fiercely dedicated fan base, but for hundreds of thousands of Australians — who consume 1.9 million Rooster Teeth videos every month — it's the biggest thing on the internet.

Gus Sorola, director and co-founder of Rooster Teeth.
Gus Sorola, director and co-founder of Rooster Teeth. 

It's for this reason that Rooster Teeth is bringing its internet and gaming culture exhibition RTX to Australia this weekend, the first time the event's been held outside of Austin, Texas.

"We've always had a good relationship with people in Australia. It's one of the first places we came to promote Rooster Teeth in 2004", says Sorola. "It's one of our stronger countries outside of the US."

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"Obviously we appeal mostly to English-speaking countries, [but] we probably have more fans in Australia than Canada."

An annual event comprising panels, live shows, competitions, meet-and-greets and games, RTX began in 2011 as an easy way for the team to keep in touch with its most dedicated fans all at once.

Fans line up to get into the store at the RTX exhibition in Austin, Texas.
Fans line up to get into the store at the RTX exhibition in Austin, Texas. 

"We had a lot of fans making meet-ups and events all around the world," says Sorola.

"There seemed to be enough demand, and we thought if we made our own they'd all come to us so we wouldn't have to travel any more."

A handful of Rooster Teeth's series, as seen on its website.
A handful of Rooster Teeth's series, as seen on its website. 

RTX 2015 was reportedly attended by 45,000 fans.

While Rooster Teeth's most distinguishing feature is its massive fandom, that's built on the back of a long stream of video content that makes up its core business.

Rooster Teeth helped popularise the machinima film genre (manipulating video games to create cinematic content) with its first series Red vs. Blue. The series is still running 12 years later, and nearing its 400th episode. It's currently the longest running web series and American sci-fi series of all time.

It's not all about video games though. The company produces a large catalogue of shows across a number of genres, including RWBY, the first western anime series to be distributed in Japan.

Sorola believes Rooster Teeth has become so popular in part because it combines the strengths of online and traditional productions to build its community. The team is big on direct interaction with its fans — as evidenced by RTX — but it's also big on consistency. Shows are available at the same time and day every week, so fans make it part of their schedule, like a traditional TV show. 

The company is currently promoting its first live action feature film, a sci-fi comedy called Lazer Team. The film broke records on crowdfunding site Indiegogo when it raised $US2.4 million, including a $10,000 pledge from one Australian teen. 

Rather than distribute it on the internet, Rooster Teeth is initially allowing fans to buy tickets to see the film at the movies through cinema crowdfunding site Tugg. The appeal of this approach is that as long as there are enough people in a given area who want to see the film (usually around 50), the local cinema will show it, meaning even small fandoms in places like Bendigo and Wollongong have their own session. Currently Tugg has confirmed 49 sessions across Australia for the premiere at 6.30pm on January 27.

Rooster Teeth continues to combine online and traditional approaches going forward, recently formalising the process to identify and greenlight new series. But at its core, the approach remains the same as it was more than a decade ago.

"We want to make things that we would find entertaining," says Sorola.

"The evidence is there. If we like it, chances are there's an awful lot of people out there who would like it too."

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