After months of being off the air, UT alumnus Zach Anner is back with a new internet-powered travel show premiering this month.
Anner, a 2009 alumnus and former member of Texas Student Television, is launching the show, “Riding Shotgun,” July 30 on YouTube. “Riding Shotgun” will feature Anner’s travels across the U.S. and Canada exploring viewer-chosen cities. Produced using a ‘for the Internet, by the Internet’ approach, the travel show will differ from his previous show on the Oprah Winfrey Network, “Rollin’ With Zach,” which was cancelled after six episodes due to poor ratings. Anner said he wants the show to capture a viewer’s perspective of the cities he visits, hopefully allowing him to see things not found in guide books.
“Through this trip I’m hoping to see the crazy, lttle-known, unique parts of places and the people that live in them,” Anner said. “I like experiencing things out of my comfort zone, and traveling is the ultimate way of doing that, which is why it’s still a travel show.”
People can submit cities that they want Anner and his crew to visit using the social media site Reddit. On July 23, eight of the top 40 cities with the most votes will be visited by Anner on a road trip spanning six weeks. Once the itinerary is set, Anner wants people to submit what they would do “on a perfect day” in that city. He will also feature his crew and locals on the show and interact with viewers online, according to the “Riding Shotgun” website.
Back in 2010, with the support of various internet communities, Anner submitted an audition tape to Winfrey’s “Your OWN Show” contest and won with more than 9 million votes. In a Reddit post, Anner said many of the people who supported his show could not watch it because they didn’t have access to the OWN network, leading to poor ratings for the show.
“Being on OWN was a great learning experience, and I’ll forever be thankful for it, but because I wasn’t completely in charge of it, I couldn’t get to do everything I wanted with it,” Anner said. “With this new show, we will, my crew and I, be able to go in totally unprepared and see what happens. There’ll be lots of crazy and spontaneity, and this time the people who helped to make ‘Rollin’ With Zach’ possible will be able to be part of the product. It’s much truer to my original idea.”
Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian is a primary supporter of the show and said he plans to help fund Anner’s show through “Riding Shotgun” merchandise sold through his online website Breadpig, which sells geeky products and donates all profits to individuals and organizations with a worthy cause. Ohanian said he will also contribute personal funds and help Anner find sponsors. Anner has no sponsors at the moment.
“He’s full of awesome ideas,” Ohanian said. “I’m just trying to help awesome people be awesome on the Internet. We both realized that the Internet was the perfect home for Zach. It just so happens the Reddit platform is one of the best for democratically sorting through good and bad content and building strong communities, like Zach’s fanbase.”
Although Ohanian and others are helping Anner launch the show, total control of the show remains in Anner’s hands.
This is the first experiment of its kind on Reddit, and if all goes well, Ohanian said he hopes more brands will start taking advantage of Reddit.
“There are so many great fan-made communities for TV shows, like “Game of Thrones,” that brands should start taking initiative and harnessing all the power and creativity of their fanbases using Reddit,” Ohanian said.
“I’m glad to have so much support at my hometown in Austin,” Anner said. “Maybe we will visit it. I’m not sure, we’ll see. I certainly wouldn’t be opposed to it.”
Top city picks are currently New Orleans, Vancouver, Montreal, Halifax Nova Scotia, Portland, Denver and San Francisco.