Faced with stiffening demand for its home-grown stars from online competitors and traditional media, YouTube said it will back original series by four of its best-known creators, including the Fine Brothers, Prank vs. Prank, Joey Graceffa and SMOSH. The Google subsidiary will also partner with DreamWorks Animation-owned AwesomenessTV to create “several” films featuring YouTube stars over the next two years.
Together, the deals mark a significant shift in approach for YouTube, which passed its 10th birthday earlier this month. Instead of focusing just on billions of short videos by little-known creators, the company is backing its biggest stars in longer-form creations, both original series and feature-length films, all debuting on its screen first.
YouTube has seen some of its big names siphoned away at least partly by lucrative deals with Vessel, Victorious, Endemol Beyond’s Icon Media, Vimeo and Conde’ Nast’s The Scene, as well as low-budget movies, TV talk shows, book deals and live events.
The deals announced today ahead of the Digital NewFronts include:
- A scripted comedy series from the Fine Brothers. It takes “a satirical look at singing-competition shows,” and will be produced in partnership with Mandeville Films. The Fine Brothers’ YouTube channels have 17 million subscribers who’ve watched their videos 3 billion times. The brothers have also earned a Daytime Emmy.
- Prank vs. Prank will create a series of shows of ambitious pranks, featuring celebrity guests. The pair have nearly 14 million subscribers to their two channels, and more than 3 billion views.
- Graceffa will create a “murder-mystery reality series” featuring a cast of other YouTube stars. Graceffa has won two Teen Choice awards for his wide array of online-video programming, which has attracted more than 5 million subscribers and more than 600 million views.
- Comedy duo Smosh, already creating a movie with AwesomenessTV, will set their comedy series in a theme restaurant bedeviled by “out-of-control kids and crazy parents.” Smosh, one of YouTube’s longest-running stars over the past decade, has more than 35 million subscribers to its channels, which have received 7 billion views.
The separate announcement about partnering with AwesomenessTV on film production brings to bear Google’s billions on a burgeoning business of low-budget films that feature numerous YouTube stars on very tight filming schedules. They are typically released on theatrically, on VOD, Digital HD and other home-entertainment platforms within just a few weeks, to leverage marketing mostly done by the film’s social-media stars themselves. Both Expelled from last December and The Smosh Movie, set for late July, are AwesomenessTV projects spearheaded by CEO Brian Robbins, who will also oversee the YouTube films.
“The films will all premiere globally on YouTube before they become available elsewhere, setting what we believe will become a new distribution paradigm for years to come,” YouTube said in a release. “We’re hoping to release our first film this Fall, with more details to come soon.”