SAN FRANCISCO--Lucas Cruikshank is to user-generated video what Tiger Woods was to golf or what Bobby Fischer was to chess when they were teenagers.
The 15-year old creator of the YouTube series Fred has become Internet video's hottest prodigy since last month, when the Fred channel amassed the most subscribers (585,506) on YouTube. He now has more than 645,000. Since launching six months ago, Fred clips have been watched more than 125 million times.
The series is a goofy satire of some YouTube video bloggers that Cruikshank considers self important. Fred is a fictitious teen with anger management problems, a strange voice, and a father serving time in jail. Cruikshank, a high school freshman in Nebraska, has parlayed his Web success into cash.
He agreed to slip products, including the Zipit text-messaging gadget, into his videos as part of product-placement deals. An aspiring actor, the teen has appeared in commercials for the device and will appear in an upcoming Nickelodeon show. "I've had meetings with movie studios," he told me. "Some people even want to turn Fred into a TV show or movie."
Walking through the NewTeeVee Live conference venue here Thursday, Cruikshank was approached by numerous executives who asked to exchange cards with him. He is barely old enough for acne but Cruikshank appears the user-gen generation's version of a Hollywood player.
Talk to Cruikshank and one gets the impression his success is no accident. He's sharp and witty and isn't intimidated by adults in suits. During an interview with NewTeeVee's Chris Albrecht in front of hundreds of conference attendees, Cruikshank got some laughs after he was asked by a man about what kind of CPM, or advertising revenue, his clips were generating.
"I bet you would like to know that," Cruikshank said. He waited a beat before adding: "But I'm not going to tell you."