‘Growing Up Wild’ tops pet YouTube lineup

By Sue Manning,AP

LOS ANGELES — Instead of an alarm clock, they wake to the sounds of elephants and tigers. They walk their dogs, but it’s often to go see the crocodiles and echidnas. And when they worry, it is about creatures like the Tazmanian devil.

Robert and Bindi Irwin live in the center of the 1,500-acre (607-hectare) Australia Zoo near Brisbane, a thriving legacy to their late father and crocodile hunter Steve Irwin.

They are also the stars of “Growing Up Wild,” one of several pet series FremantleMedia plans for its new YouTube channel called The Pet Collective.

Bindi, 13, says she hopes the show generates interest in conservation because “every time we lose an animal species, it’s like losing a brick from the house. Pretty soon, the house just falls over.”

Robert, 8, wants people to know: “Not all animals actually make good pets. Be careful what animals you actually choose and always protect animals.”

Fremantle, the company behind “American Idol,” “The X Factor” and the international “Got Talent” franchise, is already a huge YouTube partner, said Richard Vargas of Los Angeles, senior vice president of development and production for London-based Fremantle.

“There are over 3.2 billion views of Fremantle content on YouTube today,” he said. “That’s where our audiences are going, from TV to the new media world, so we are moving there as well.”

The pet lovers channel and “Growing Up Wild” debuted on May 31. Through the week, The Pet Collective debuted other new shows like “The Litter,” the story of a litter of kittens narrated by Khloe Kardashian; “The Unadoptables,” looking at hard-to-adopt pets; and “Master & Pet,” a scripted comedy-drama about a woman and her cat who seems to be masterminding her dating life.

A new 5-minute episode of each series will air weekly. There will be about 10 episodes in each series and they will remain in rotation for a year.

By the end of summer, Fremantle expects to have 20 hours of programming on YouTube. At 12 episodes an hour, that’s 240 individual episodes.

Vargas wouldn’t disclose how much Fremantle is investing in the effort, hinting only that it wasn’t as much as traditional TV programming, but not a bad budget.

YouTube, owned by Google Inc., launched its original 100-channel initiative in 2011 and invited Hollywood to come up with ideas. Pets and their popularity seemed a perfect match for Fremantle and its production abilities, Vargas said.

Some series will feature audience-produced video, but “Growing Up Wild” features TV-style production. “They are such an engaging duo. It’s the Irwins naturally telling the camera and the audience their anecdotes about these animals. It’s not like they are reading scripts or anything. They are really passionate about the subject,” Vargas said.

After their episode on the red panda, “I wanted a red panda for myself,” he said.