YouTube has confirmed a significant shift of its original programming strategy, announcing all of its originals will now get a run on the free, ad-supported side of the fence.
The strategic evolution has been in the works over the last several months, with YouTube Premium (which was born in 2015 as YouTube Red) holding off on any major scripted buys. As Deadline reported last fall, the company has been looking to embrace unscripted fare anchored to recognizable stars as opposed to incubating scripted originals and trying to compete in a crowded landscape.
The Google-owned video hub will now secure free windows for originals such as Cobra Kai, the Karate Kid continuation which the company has picked up for a third season. The exact windows are expected to vary somewhat with each property.
YouTube said in a press release issued ahead of its Brandcast event at the NewFronts that it would now focused on three types of series: music, learning and personalities. It maintained that scripted would remain an active component of its development and programming plans, joining unscripted, interactive and live entertainment events.
“For today’s viewers, primetime is personal and our content resonates so strongly due to the diversity and richness of our unmatched library and platform capabilities,” Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said in the official announcement. “While every other media company is building a paywall, we are headed in the opposite direction and now have more opportunities than ever to partner with advertisers and share our critically- acclaimed originals with our global audience.”
At the start of Brandcast, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki emphasized one stat as a motivating factor behind the shift. She said the fastest growth in viewing is in the living room, where about 250 million hours of YouTube fare are watched every day, on average. According to comScore, YouTube has the broadest reach of any ad-supported streaming service (and 2 billion monthly active users across all devices.)
Wojcicki described the company’s programming direction as aiming to “delve into topics that people truly care about. … That’s why people watch YouTube.” Topics such as beauty, cooking, music and science took up the opening minutes of the CEO’s remarks. “And, of course, slime. We’ve had lots of slime.”
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