According to YouTube’s latest stats, the video behemoth has more than two billion users and reaches more people in the U.S. than any TV network, with no signs of slowing down. There are more than one billion hours watched daily, with more than 70 percent of watch time coming from mobile.
The very first YouTube video was uploaded on April 23, 2005, and I’m pretty sure that Reed Duchscher couldn’t have cared less at the time — mainly because he had no idea that a video revolution was coming and would change his life in just a few short years. Duchscher was likely busy at high school football practice getting in his reps as a promising young wide receiver and linebacker playing both ways as a top varsity athlete. He was also a two-time all-district basketball player and competed in track and field.
Duchscher worked hard and earned a walk-on spot at North Dakota State University as a D1 football player. But it would be his no-nonsense competitive style and scrappy work ethic off the field that ended up paying major dividends. “When I was thinking about my career, I was inspired by the movie Jerry Maguire,” Duchscher says, referring to the iconic sports film/rom-com written, produced, and directed by Cameron Crowe, featuring stars Tom Cruise, Cuba Gooding Jr., and Renée Zellweger.
In the beginning for Duchscher, the allure of being a sports agent might have been a little about reclaiming some of the glory and rush he felt when he was catching touchdown passes in the big game. But thanks to his parents and good upbringing, he managed to stay humble with his eyes on the prize.
He applied the same focus on winning in business as he did on the field. In fact, to help make his dreams of becoming an agent a reality, Duchscher went, résumé in hand, to several big agencies. “My philosophy,” he says, “was not just about picking up the phone or emailing in my résumé … I thought it would be best to actually show up and try to get a face-to-face.”
One of these targets was the office of Leigh Steinberg, one of the most prolific agents in the world and credited with being the inspiration for Jerry Maguire.
Duchscher sat and waited patiently in Steinberg’s lobby, lingering for a chance to meet his hero while fighting off interns hinting strongly for him to give up and leave. After a while, with no success or Steinberg in sight, Duchscher was ushered out and asked to vacate the premises. Instead of giving up, he drove 50 miles south to sunny Orange County and headed to see Ryan Tollner of Rep1 Sports, who has negotiated nearly $800 million in active deals (as of Forbes‘s 2019 agents list).
“One of the people in Ryan’s office took my résumé and couldn’t have been nicer … he said that Ryan was out but that he’d put it on his desk,” says Duchscher. The day after, he got an email from Tollner apologizing for missing his surprise visit to the office and complimenting Duchscher on his hustle mentality. He promised to keep Duchscher’s résumé in mind if something came available and kept the door open to stay in touch with the young newcomer.
Flash forward two years later and Duchscher gets a call from the father of a good friend and former teammate at NDSU, Carson Wentz. The family had narrowed down their choices of agents to sign Wentz, who was predicted to be the No. 1 NFL draft pick that year. Yes, you guessed it. These included Leigh Steinberg, Todd France, and Ryan Tollner. Call it fate or karma, Duchscher gave the Wentz family all the pros and cons of each agent, but the tipping point was likely the kindness and personal touch of Tollner, reminiscent of the Jerry Maguire character willing to show up for the little guy.
Wentz signed with Rep1 Sports and Tollner had five of the NFL’s leading quarterbacks: Carson Wentz, Jared Goff, Ben Roethlisberger, Marcus Mariota, and Mitchell Trubisky. There are many lessons here, but mostly, the person you misjudge as “nobody” today might be the “somebody” of tomorrow, so be kind to everyone no matter what. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes, from Abraham Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”
About seven years after YouTube’s historic first video post in 2005, another random high school kid in North Carolina named Jimmy Donaldson, a.k.a. MrBeast, uploads his first video in 2012. He’s goofy … a gamer … bored in his room making videos when he should be studying for a social studies test. MrBeast would go on to grow his channel slowly over the next few years to more than a million subscribers, with rabid fans who relate to his lifestyle.
Duchscher continued to make moves and found a way to mingle his love of sports and talent management by working with another up-and-coming group of dudes who called themselves Dude Perfect via a job at an NFL sports agency in Las Vegas.
Recognizing the potential for influencers to grow on YouTube, Duchscher went solo and started working with DP (one of the highest-paid YouTubers on the platform) on brand deals and monetizing strategies. He had a gut feeling that change was coming and that influencers and digital/social media marketing were taking over traditional ad channels and created his company Night Media.
Night Media started with management, branding, and business development, and has since evolved into a full-service agency that partners with clients and offers strategic market plans, digital strategy, talent management, and more for some of the biggest players on YouTube.
A simple DM note from a mutual friend introduced Duchscher to Donaldson and the rest is history. Night Media helps a small number of channels produce an incredibly large amount of attention and engagement — an estimated one billion views per month and climbing. By the time you read this, Duchscher and MrBeast will have probably surpassed the 50 million subscriber count.
But it’s not just about the optics and fame. In fact, it’s the opposite. Duchscher chooses clients who not only have a passion for what they do but also show potential to become entrepreneurs, as Night Media invests and shares equity with creators who launch new businesses and products.
Nothing has really changed about Duchscher’s core business philosophy and values he learned from being an athlete. Yes, he’s working with the top talent making a lot of money in his field, but he’s still got that Jerry Maguire mentality that compels him to show up for his clients everyday in a very personal and meaningful way.
You can watch the full-length episode of Behind the Night Media Brand below and go to school on a very educational case study of how to do brand deals, build attention, and do talent management the right way. Enjoy!