YouTube PrimeTime: Jane Fonda, Jillian Michaels Push Online Viewers To ‘BeFit’

Note: “YouTube PrimeTime” is a series looking at how some of entertainment’s elite are faring in the YouTube ecosystem.

For all of the health and fitness trends that wax and wane, one method has remained incredibly steady: Move.

So it makes sense that Lionsgate would release the vast archive it owns of some of the all-time most popular exercise videos. But rather than selling another DVD collection or hooking another deal on cable, Lionsgate has been slowly uploading Jane Fonda, Jillian Michaels, Billy Blanks Jr. videos to a YouTube channel called “BeFit.”

It’s been one of the early success stories of YouTube’s premium channel initiative. Since launching in late April, the channel has garnered more than 50,000 subscribers and is closing in on 8 million video views. Because when you need a better tush, what’s going to get you there faster than Jane Fonda and a chair? (Note: The video embedded here is something Fonda did especially for the BeFit channel.)

On the other hand, why would Lionsgate roll out these popular videos on a free platform with light advertising?

Because the Fondas and Michaels help you meet Samantha Clayton and Garret Amarine, trainers in the original series BeFit in 90 — 5 to 10-minute workouts that will keep you moving for 90 days straight. Like any good health strategy, Lionsgate is thinking long-term.

In this email interview, Kajsa Vikman, Lionsgate’s senior vice president for Marketing and general manager of Fitness, talks about building brand on Be Fit, whether the results have met expectations so far and how to find the balance when adding content.

The BeFit concept seems like a strong one for many different platforms. What was attractive about YouTube?

Given Lionsgate’s history in the fitness industry and our vast library, we saw a unique opportunity to build our consumer base on a premier Web platform by offering a blend of our existing high-quality fitness content and the premium original programming YouTube announced last October. It fits with our commitment to remain at the cutting edge of content creation and delivery by adopting new digital technologies to deliver a targeted and compelling experience direct to consumers whenever and wherever they want it. The BeFit channel on YouTube extends Lionsgate’s strategy of allying itself with world-class brand name partners.


It looks like Jane Fonda and Jillian Michaels videos are getting lots of views. Are there any instructors whose popularity has surprised you?

I think Denise Austin is also doing quite well, which is actually not surprising since she has a very strong and loyal following. This format has just allowed a new way for people to follow and familiarize themselves with her fitness and style. We are also very excited about the positive reception to our first original program that launched on the channel, “BeFit in 90.” This program is as effective as some of the more costly products on the market today, and we are able to bring it to consumers for free. Both the BeFit channel and “Befit in 90” are developing strong followings and an engaged community.

Were there popular YouTube channels that you learned from before launching this channel?

We are always evaluating other channels to see what is working and what is not working, while making necessary adjustments to our channel as we continue to develop our content and direction. But this is also a very targeted audience, so it was as important for us to build a great fitness channel as it was a great YouTube channel. We had a specific vision in mind and work daily on creating that vision for consumers to experience as well.

In general so far, how has the endeavor on YouTube matched up against your expectations?

We’re really pleased with the results that we’ve achieved to date. We received over 1.7 million views over the last month and that is continuing to grow significantly as we upload fresh new workout content every day. We have a lot of creative control over the channel, and are consistently working to fulfill and develop our niche of offering premium workout content to the consumer. We feel like it’s really the blueprint that YouTube had in mind last fall, showcasing premium content from an established brand while we tap into a new channel for new and existing programming.

What aspects have been more challenging than you expected?

Honestly, the biggest challenge is the abundance of content and maximizing the views of each individual video. Our challenge every day is to consistently build the brand and the brand recognition of BeFit and all of the assets that comprise it. Our fitness library is unparalleled, but this is a new medium for it and we’re learning lessons every day. Thus, there is definitely a strategy behind the amount of content that’s going up, when it is posted, what the creative looks like, etc. All of that is evaluated very carefully to make sure that every update to BeFit is relevant and works to grow our brand.

What’s coming next for the channel?

Garret and Amarine

We’ve got an exciting summer happening as we expand with new shows and continue to build an engaged BeFit community. Starting off in July we’re launching “BeFit Yoga” featuring noted yoga experts Sadie Nardini and Rainbeau Mars. In August we’re launching “StarFit,” a celebrity fitness tabloid-style show hosted by Kym Johnson from “Dancing with the Stars.” This will be five-minute segments that talk about how stars get in shape with a variety of the latest fitness trends. Finally, we’re really excited about a show called “You Asked for It” in which our fitness experts will answer consumer questions generated through social media. It’s a direct manifestation of our goal to build an active, engaged community around BeFit.

Do you foresee a time when more people watch your YouTube shows on a television than a PC or on a mobile device?

Television viewing will increase as the technology advances and more people use Internet-connected TVs. Consumers continue to use all devices. That is the strength of YouTube – you can watch their content wherever you are, whenever you want. But home fitness started in the living room and our shows sure do look great on your big widescreen TV!