Susanne Daniels, global head of original content at YouTube, touched on issues such as the rebranding of YouTube Red as YouTube Premium, longer episode running times and budget strategy during an executive session at TCA.
“You’re probably not going to see us spend that level of money for a Game of Thrones or a comparable series like Westworld,” she said, responding to a question about Amazon’s lavish Lord of the Rings project and Netflix and others spreading cash around. “But I’ve always been a believer that you can make great shows for less money and that it’s not the episodic spend that makes something great.”
In her scripted remarks before the open Q&A, Daniels highlighted some of the dozens of projects in the pipeline for 2018 and beyond. (This year will see 15 new shows debut in the U.S.) Among the projects that typify the kinds of programming YouTube is targeting, she said, are series with the attachments of Jordan Peele, George Clooney, Robert Downey Jr. and Lance Bass.
Kobra Kai, the update of Karate Kid that rolled out recently, has “exceeded all of our expectations,” she said. Viewers have consumed more than 1 billion total hours of Karate Kid-related video content on the platform, and the first episode of the reboot has drawn 40 million.
Asked about the rebrand of the $10-a-month YouTube Red, which many wags both inside and outside of YouTube immediately likened to a porn site, Daniels said the company had determined it was “putting good money after bad” in continuing to market the service as Red. “It wasn’t resonating with viewers,” she said. “But YouTube Premium seems to be working for us.”
Episode length, another area of experimentation, has also started to settle in at a longer duration more consistent with the standard of rival streaming services and networks.
“The feedback we were getting from subscribers was, ‘Hey, we get short-form content all day long from YouTube. If we’re going to subscribe to Premium, we want something more.” As a result, the service has committed to a minimum episode length of 20 minutes an episode, Daniels said. Her session was followed by a series that reinforced that more epic approach: sci-fi series Origin from Left Bank Pictures, the company behind Netflix’s The Crown.
Among the other notable upcoming programming moves highlighted by Daniels are a new batch of episodes of Kevin Hart series What the Fit? Since premiering in March, the first season has racked up 100 million views, she said, averaging 5.4 million per episode. Another upcoming outing with a live element is Will Smith’s The Jump, which will see the star bungee-jump from a helicopter over the Grand Canton on September 25, in a charity benefit marking his 50th birthday.