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Twin YouTube Stars Charged With Felonies After Fake Bank Robbery Video

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  • The Stokes Twins, who have 25 million TikTok followers and 4.8 million YouTuber subscribers, were charged with false imprisonment and swatting on Wednesday in connection to a fake bank robbery prank video they filmed in October 2019. 
  • In the video, they run around the Irvine, California area dressed in all black, with ski masks and duffle bags full of cash to make it seem like they had just committed a crime.
  • The prank resulted in their Uber driver being held at gunpoint by police, who authorities later learned was not involved. Even after police issued the duo a warning, they continued to carry out their prank on the UC Irvine campus. 
  • Each face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted on all counts. 

Stoke Twins in Trouble 

A pair of brothers known online as the Stokes Twins are in serious legal trouble over a fake bank robbery prank video they uploaded to their YouTube channel last year. 

The brothers are 23-year-old Alan and Alex Stokes, and they have 4.8 million followers on YouTube, where they post challenge videos, pranks, and other content. They also have over 25 million followers on their joint TikTok account. 

On Wednesday the Orange County District Attorney’s office in California announced that they had each been charged in connection with their robbery prank. 

The DA’s office said the video at the center of this case was filmed on October 15, 2019. However, in the video, the twins say it was filmed over the course of three days. According to The Hollywood Reporter, it had more than 1.4 million views before it was set to private sometime yesterday. Still, reuploads of the prank have already been posted and shared, along with more details about what happened when it was filmed thanks to a press release from the DA’s office. 

What Happens in the Prank Video?

In the video, the pair dresses up in all black with ski masks and duffle bags full of cash to make those around them believe they have just committed a crime. Much of the video is filmed in the Irvine area and UC Irvine campus, where the two run around to catch people’s attention, sometimes tripping and spilling cash onto the ground.

In some parts of the video, they approach strangers and ask for directions to the nearest bank. “Do you know how tight their security is?” one brother says after getting directions from a group of students. “I’m just going to make a large withdrawal if you know what I mean.”

A short time later, they return to anyone they previously approached and offer them money for their help. “Hey man, I just wanted to give you this cause I would have never gotten this without your help,” one brother says. 

At other points, they ask people if they can buy their clothes off of them and approach women to ask them out on dates, showing off their bags of cash. They even ask some women to help them commit their fake crimes.

“So I’m actually trying to rob a bank and I’m looking for an attractive female to distract the security guards. Would you be down to do that?” they ask.

The video ends with extra footage from these encounters, where the two explain that it was all a prank and people admit that they saw the cameraman or suspected it was a joke. 

Stunt With Uber Driver Goes Wrong 

Still, there were some people who didn’t think it was a joke at all. At one point in the video, the twins get into an Uber and the driver quickly becomes uncomfortable by the situation they’ve put him in.

“What is this?” the driver asks. “Uh, our getaway driver just bailed on us so uh,” one twin says.

“We’re going to like a costume party…Could you step on it? Like step on the gas,” they add.

“This is weird. It’s not funny. Okay, I can’t just take this ride. Just get out of my car please.” the driver tells the twins.

According to the DA’s office, a bystander saw this exchange and believed they were attempting to carjack the driver, so they called the police. When authorities responded, they ordered the driver out of the car at gunpoint. He was ultimately released after they determined that he was not involved.

Police also issued a warning to the brothers at that time about how dangerous their conduct was and let them go, which the twins actually include in the video. 

When the brothers explain that its a prank, one officer says, “A public prank that gets about 15 police officers in the area hauling butt over here cause you guys are pulling off masks.

One of the twins explains that he called the non-emergency police number and notified them of the days they would be filming their video. The officer responds with, “This is what’s going to get someone potentially gunstuck or someone hurt. We have people stopping the middle of the street because they’re watching this, guys pulling up ski masks, throwing stuff of the ground, changing clothes.”

One of the brothers explains that most people were laughing and he didn’t expect this to happen, seeming to admit that they took it too far. The officers continue to try to explain the seriousness of the situation to them, with one saying, “Dude, this about what’s going on nowadays. Think about it man you’ve got to be smarter than that.” 

“You know better…I want you guys to be creative and do what you want to do, but you’ve got to be smarter than this. What do you think people are going to do? Right, and you’ve lucky you didn’t get any guns drawn at you. You’re absolutely lucky you didn’t get any guns drawn at you.”

The officers remain calm, warning them to be careful and advising them to maybe rent a space or a controlled area for future videos instead. Because the brothers placed this at the end of the video, you might believe that maybe the twins realized what they did wrong and were learning from their mistake.

However, according to the press release, the brothers performed the prank on the University campus four hours after police initially spoke to them. 

In fact, they even laugh about how they’ve had the police call on them throughout the day when talking to others that they pranked on campus. 

They tell one group of students about the incident with the Uber driver adding, “The Uber driver kicked us out of the car. One minute later, there were like 10 cop cars that pulled out guns on him. They were like rifles. They thought he was the getaway driver guns so they had like 15 guns put up. He’s like ‘I’m not even a part of this.’ So yeah, poor guy.”

What Were They Charged With? 

The brothers have each been charged with one felony count of false imprisonment affected by violence, menace, fraud, or deceit, and one misdemeanor count of falsely reporting an emergency, which is often referred to as swatting. They both face a maximum sentence of four years in state prison if convicted on all counts.

When announcing the charges, D.A. Todd Spitzer condemned their actions, saying in a statement, “These were not pranks.”

“These are crimes that could have resulted in someone getting seriously injured or even killed. Law enforcement officers are sworn to protect the public and when someone calls 911 to report an active bank robbery they are going to respond to protect lives. Instead, what they found was some kind of twisted attempt to gain more popularity on the internet by unnecessarily putting members of the public and police officers in danger.”

The brothers have no made any public comments about the charges as of now. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (The Hollywood Reporter) (CNN

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Netflix Passes 200M Subscribers as Other Streamers Struggle With Retention

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  • In a letter to shareholders, Netflix said it has hit over 200 million subscribers following a successful year of growth.
  • The pandemic gave Netflix a significant subscriber boost in March and April. The company continued to perform well even in its final quarter, gaining 8.5 million subscribers when it was only projected to add 6 million.
  • The data also highlights how relatively unaffected Netflix has been by new streaming services entering the market. While companies like Disney+, HBO Max, and Peacock continue to grow, they also struggle to retain the subscribers that sign up.

Netflix Passes 200 Million Subscribers

Netflix has topped 200 million subscribers following a year of strong growth in 2020.

In its Tuesday letter to shareholders, Netflix announced that it added 8.5 million subscribers in its fourth quarter. This exceeds projections, which estimated the streaming giant would only add around 6 million. In total, Netflix gained 37 million new memberships throughout 2020, bringing the company to 203.6 million subscribers.

Pandemic lockdowns gave Netflix a substantial boost in March in April. In the company’s first two quarters, it added a combined 25.7 million subscribers. According to data from the letter, Netflix had added over 10 million more subscribers by May of 2020 than it had by May of 2019.

When it comes to the success of their fourth quarter, Netflix pointed to shows like “Bridgerton” and “The Crown.” The fourth season of “The Crown” hit the platform in November, prompting many to return to older seasons of the show. Netflix claims the series has been viewed by 100 million households since it first aired in 2016.

Success Amid Growth of Competition

The year 2020 could have been a difficult one for Netflix as new streaming services entered the market. Disney+, Apple TV+, HBO Max, Peacock and more have all made waves with their original programming or by taking some of their brand’s content from Netflix to host on their own site. User-based content on YouTube and TikTok also became increasingly popular throughout the pandemic, further posing as a threat to Netflix. 

Still, it reached a massive milestone. 

“Our strategy is simple: if we can continue to improve Netflix every day to better delight our members, we can be their first choice for streaming entertainment,” Netflix said in the letter. “This past year is a testament to this approach.”

Netflix potentially sees Disney+ as the biggest competitor among new platforms. In its letter, the company noted that the streamer added 87 million subscribers in its first year. In a Q&A, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings seemed enthusiastic about this competition.

“It’s super impressive what Disney’s done,” he said. “It’s going to be great for the world that Disney and Netflix are competing show-by-show, movie-by-movie. We’re very fired up about catching them in family animation, maybe eventually passing them, we’ll see. It’s a long way to go just to catch them, and maintaining our lead in general entertainment that’s so stimulating like ‘Bridgerton,’ which I don’t think you’re going to see on Disney anytime soon.”

Streamers Struggle with Retaining Subscribers

Even as new streamers have had impressive years, there is one hurdle that many are still struggling to jump over: retaining the subscribers who sign up. The Los Angeles Times named Disney+, HBO Max, Peacock, and Apple TV+ in particular, writing that people create accounts with these services, watch the TV shows or movies they are interested in, and cancel once they are done.

An October survey from Deloitte said that 46% of respondents canceled at least one streaming service in the last 6 months, which is up 20% from January of last year. Most who had canceled said they did so because they had finished watching whatever programming it was that brought them to that service. 

Places like Disney+ and HBO Max are really vulnerable to this because they have banked on drawing people in with exclusive marquis titles like “Hamilton” or “Wonder Woman 1984.” However, since they are newer, they are still building their original programming catalog, meaning that people can quickly burn through highlight titles. 

See what others are saying: (Los Angeles Times) (Wall Street Journal) (The Hollywood Reporter)

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Paramount+ To Launch March 4

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  • ViacomCBS is launching Paramount+ in the United States and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out to other markets internationally later this year. 
  • The streaming service will be a relaunch and expansion of CBS All Access. It will include content from Nickelodeon, MTV, and more on top of the CBS-focused selection. 

Paramount+ Gets Launch Date

ViacomCBS will be launching its streaming service Paramount+ in the U.S. and Latin America on March 4 before rolling out in more countries throughout the year. 

It will be an expansion and rebrand of CBS All Access, the service the company currently offers that is used by nearly 8 million subscribers. Paramount+ will go beyond the CBS-centric content promoted there, including works from brands like Nickelodeon, MTV, BET, Comedy Central, and the Smithsonian Channel.

More details about their streaming strategy will be released during an investor event on February 24. Right now, ViacomCBS is boasting that the service will have over 30,000 episodes and movies in their catalog, which will also include live sports and breaking news. 

“The Paramount brand is known and loved all around the world, and is synonymous with great entertainment. It’s always brought people together, which makes it a perfect fit for a streaming service that’s uniquely positioned to do the same,” Josh Line the chief brand officer of ViacomCBS said during a brand announcement in September. “The Paramount+ streaming service will elevate ViacomCBS’ iconic family of brands.”

State of the Streaming Wars

Paramount+ has already announced a slew of original projects including a revival of “iCarly” and a series about the making of “The Godfather” titled “The Offer.”

The service is entering an already crowded battlefield as the streaming wars wages on. It will have plenty of uphill battles to fight since brand recognition for Paramount is not nearly as strong as it is for studios like Disney or NBCUniversal. It will also have to compete with Netflix, which leads the pack in subscribers and unveils new content regularly; HBO Max, which will be home to Warner Media’s new theatrical releases; and Hulu, which hosts original content as well as shows currently airing on cable and network television. 

ViacomCBS has not released information on pricing, but that will likely come during or before the February investor event.

See what others are saying: (Variety) (Deadline) (CNBC)

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Olivia Rodrigo Smashes Records with “drivers license”

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  • Olivia Rodrigo’s debut single “drivers license” has set multiple records on Spotify, becoming both the most streamed song in one day for non-holiday music and the most streamed song in a week.
  • It also has become the most globally requested song on Alexa in one day on Amazon Music. 
  • After its Jan. 8 release, the song became a trending audio on TikTok. Since TikTok’s rise to popularity, the app has helped many songs reach viral success at lightning speed. 

“driver’s license” Breaks Records

At just 17-year-old, Olivia Rodrigo is smashing records with her new single “drivers license” after debuting the tune on Jan. 8.

On Friday, Spotify announced the single set the record for most streams in a week. Prior to this, it set the record for most streams on the platform in one day for a non-holiday song.

As of Monday morning, the song has over 125 million plays on Spotify. According to Pop Crave, it was also the fastest song to reach 100 million streams on the popular music service. 

Over on Amazon Music, “drivers license” became the most globally requested song on Alexa in a single day. It also became the biggest global streaming debut on the site. 

Song Goes Viral on TikTok

Rodrigo is best known for her role as Nini on “High School Musical: The Musical: The Series.” She has also appeared in a variety of other Disney projects where she showcased her singing and songwriting capabilities. In “drivers license,” she croons about using the newly minted independence her license affords her to mourn a recent breakup.  

The pop ballad has become a popular audio on TikTok. Many use it for dances, to discuss the possibility that Rodrigo wrote it about her co-star Joshua Bassett, or to just wallow in its lyrics. It has been used by some of the app’s most popular creators, including Charli D’Amelio. 

Its success on the platform has likely contributed to its success on streaming platforms and charts. The app has had an immeasurable impact on the music industry by helping songs and artists reach the mainstream at lightning speed. Hits like “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X first found a home on TikTok before breaking records on the billboard charts. 

Rodrigo has been happy and surprised to see her song perform so well and be so positively received. 

“Never in my wildest dreams did I expect this,” she wrote on Instagram after learning that “drivers license” was the number one song on global iTunes charts. “thank u guys so much for listening. I can’t believe this is real life.”

See what others are saying: (Teen Vogue) (CBS News) (Billboard)

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