Taking a stance against Channel Awesome
The year was 2008: YouTube was still in its infancy, Fred was only then becoming popular, PewDiePie had not even been heard of yet and the internet reviewing community was just getting started. At the forefront of this community was Doug Walker, better known as “The Nostalgia Critic.”
The Nostalgia Critic, played by Doug Walker and written by him and his brother Rob, became the cornerstone of ThatGuyWithTheGlasses.com (TGWTG), a place where internet reviewers could escape the harsh copyright restrictions of YouTube and thrive. TGWTG was owned by Channel Awesome, founded by Mike Michaud, Mike Ellis and Bhargav Dronamraju. The latter two are no longer with the site, but Michaud is – having been the CEO for about 10 years. Michaud is, in the eyes of many former contributors, the cause of most – if not all – of the problems they faced during their time with Channel Awesome.
On April 2, Allison Pregler (formerly “Obscurus Lupa”), Kaylyn Saucedo (“Marzgurl”) and about 20 other former Channel Awesome associates came forward with a 69-page Google Doc entitled “Not So Awesome,” compiling many cases of egregious mismanagement, mistreatment and abuse by Channel Awesome’s staff over the years.
Even skimming the document gives the reader the impression that Michaud has no idea how to run a company or a website. For example, when Pregler came to Channel Awesome’s studio in Chicago to film a review with Doug, she was angrily confronted by Michaud for putting ads in the middle of her videos when the ad revenue was how she was barely making ends meet. Pregler was let go from Channel Awesome shortly thereafter for not responding to a Skype chat, despite Michaud being even harder to get ahold of.
Michaud is also responsible for the utter disaster that was Channel Awesome’s IndieGoGo campaign and subsequent short-lived game show “Pop Quiz Hotshot.” According to the document, no one else wanted to do it. After burning away the $90,000 they had crowdfunded on reshoots, the show was canceled. This after only producing 12 episodes out of a promised 40, meeting the legal number of episodes they were required to complete.
The Walker Brothers did not fare too well either. For instance, when making the three TGWTG anniversary movies, Doug did not understand how having two of his actors, comic reviewer Lewis “Linkara” Lovhaug and Lindsay “Nostalgia Chick” Ellis, perform a “comical sexual assault” sequence could be seen as offensive, even after the two made their objections.
Doug in particular was the deciding vote on whether or not Holly Brown, who worked in human resources for the company, would be fired for taking a day off to recover from surgery. Brown, who had worked on holidays and weekends for years at Michaud’s insistence, was then forced to sign an exclusivity contract barring her from working in the website industry for three years, at risk of losing her severance pay.
There are also allegations of sexual harassment by former executive Ellis, which was known about by Channel Awesome’s higher-ups but was not acted upon for two years.
Channel Awesome released a statement shortly after the document went viral, telling producers that they “regret you felt that way,” shifting the blame onto them rather than taking responsibility and apologizing. In the past month, reviewers Linkara, Todd in the Shadows, Film Brain and others have left Channel Awesome as a result of these grievances.
Team-up sites like Channel Awesome are, for better or worse, a thing of the past.
At TGWTG’s peak, they were using Blip.tv for video embeds, as YouTube had not yet relaxed their copyright stance. But after Blip was bought by Disney and shut down, creators moved to YouTube and adapted to thrive there.
That is why many stayed with Channel Awesome for so long: for a long time the site represented much of their viewership, and only now are they breaking free from that.