How YouTube is going from viral videos to original programming

Demi Lovato Youtube programming

YouTube, it’s fair to say was the original digital disruptor. A channel where we could watch an endless stream of footage and more recently watch things go viral, from beauty vloggers, to Beyoncé to James Cordon’s Carpool Karaoke. But now, with the launch of YouTube Red– a subscription service, the channel is moving into offering more original stories with an advertising component. YouTube Red, officially launched last year with Susanne Daniels at the helm, and kicked off with a small roster of shows around 30 series and movies, such as scripted comedies like Foursome (on its 3rd season), and This is Everything: Gigi Gorgeous, which premiered at Sundance.

But this year, the channel is doubling down on its efforts by teaming up with global brands and high level celebrities to create new advertising supported original shows- with names like Ellen Degeneres, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson and a fitness series with comedian Kevin Hart.

Talking at the 2017 Cannes Lions Festival yesterday, Daniels was joined on stage by singer Demi Lovato for a panel called ‘The Changing Face of Original Content’. Lovato is teaming up with the channel for a new reality show called Simply Complicated, following on from Katy’s Perry one-off reality special which launched two weeks ago to a global audience called Witness Worldwide (where she reacted in real time), the show got over 49 million viewers.

Talking about this new direction for Youtube, Daniels said that critics originally asked if she was planning to follow in Netflix’s footsteps when it came to the content. “People asked me what’s your programming strategy are you planning to mirror Netflix or Amazon, in bringing TV to digital? Or recreate the themes of MTV? The answers to those questions is no. We want to be uniquely Youtube, we want to identify Youtube’s most engaging stars in top genres and invest in content that fans tell us that they want, in other words we are letting our community drive our content.”

So why is Youtube now making this move into originals? Well put simply, it makes good business sense. YouTube is hoping to work with brands to try to change the consumer’s mind, and get the consumer excited about ads again- rather than the current mood where we install ad blockers and shy away from engaging with ads.

“5 years ago, 85% of all original series were ad-supported, today that number has fallen to just over two-thirds, and with significantly more content coming to subscription services, that shift is accelerating. We see these shows as a way for us to partner with brands, and buck this trend”, said Daniels at the 2017 Cannes Lions Festival of Creativity.

YouTube is excited about moving into programming to be able to get real time feedback, where consumers and their page views can drive what’s popular. And more interestingly, YoutTbe might be able to do what heritage TV channels can’t, by playing around with the length of each show, and “adjust the content on the fly”, said Daniels. It’s also going to be interesting to see how audiences react to the shows, because that’s the thing about YouTube, the ethos of the channel is that the consumer/viewer has the most power.

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