YouTube Content Chief Talks Originals


CANNES: Susanne Daniels, the global head of content for YouTube, discussed the platform’s original programming strategy during her MIPCOM keynote, unveiling new shows from Doug Liman, Dan Harmon and Dwayne Johnson.

“YouTube is a place where individualism thrives, diversity flourishes and where new genres and content formats are launched every single day,” Daniels said. “It’s where a new generation of entertainers share their personal stories to a world that is eager to listen and talk back. I truly believe this is the evolution of television—a platform where distribution is democratized, and where global communities drive what’s popular.”

YouTube is not “planning to mirror Netflix or Amazon in bringing TV to digital, or recreate the programming themes of MTV,” she said. The video-sharing site has a simple thesis, Daniels said: “Identify YouTube’s most engaging stars and top genres, and invest in the content that fans tell us they want. In other words, let our community drive our content.”

Original series are key drivers for YouTube Red subscriptions, Daniels said, “with viewership that rivals cable shows in the U.S.” She went on to note that more than 50 percent of time spent on YouTube originals is on mobile. “And in the living room, we’re seeing Red members watching over 75 percent more YouTube on their TVs than the average YouTube viewer.”

Daniels continued, “We’re also seeing a virtuous cycle between YouTube Red and our ad-supported experience, with creators featured in originals seeing a significant boost in YouTube subscribers and watchtime on their main channels as well—often from new fans.”

On the originals front, YouTube has greenlit a second season of Joey Graceffa’s murder mystery series Escape the Night. For next year, the platform has commissioned three new originals. From Universal Cable Productions and director Doug Liman is Impulse, “a sci-fi thriller about a young girl who discovers her ability to teleport away from danger. The series will feature top YouTubers and we’re lucky to have Jeff Lieber—best known for the TV series Lost—attached to write and produce,” she said. There will also be a new comedy from Community creator Dan Harmon.” The series will feature YouTube stars Dan Avidan and Arin Hanson of Game Grumps and follows a newly-formed team of eSports players trying to make it to the top in the cutthroat world of competitive gaming.”

She continued, “And remember earlier I talked about tapping into the biggest and brightest emerging creators on YouTube? Well, this next series announcement comes from someone you may not have thought of as a big YouTube star, but he’s grown his YouTube channel to over 1.3 million subscribers in just the last two months. I’m talking about Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. Together with Studio 71 and Corridor Digital, Dwayne Johnson will executive produce a new half-hour action series about a life insurance company that send its agents forward 33 days in time to prevent the accidental deaths of its clients.”

Daniels went on to say, “We want to invest in the passion of our incredibly talented creators, match them with world-class visionary producers, tell stories that entertain a vibrant community. We believe in this business and are deeply committed to supporting the shows and creative talent that it fuels.”

Daniels was joined on stage by Kevin Beggs, the chairman of Lionsgate TV. “At Lionsgate, we pride ourselves on going new places and forming innovative new partnerships that have never been tried before. Time and again, we’ve been first movers on new platforms. I believe YouTube is embarking on something big, a new chapter in its history that has the potential to change the way people think about its brand in a way that can benefit all of us here. So when I see YouTube go out and recruit an executive like Susanne Daniels, when I see their willingness to embrace funded original programming and when I see their commitment, it is exciting. It feels like another great opportunity for Lionsgate as a studio to help create network-defining content and help them launch this capability.”