EXCLUSIVE: YouTube’s flagship scripted series Cobra Kai will be moving to a new streaming platform for its upcoming third season. The Google-owned online video service is in the process of releasing Season 3 of the popular show to producing studio Sony Pictures TV amid a retreat from premium original scripted programming.
Sony TV had taken Cobra Kai out, with all major streamers expressing interest, sources said. I hear the field of suitors has been narrowed down, with Netflix and Hulu leading the short list of contenders for the Karate Kid sequel series, starring Ralph Macchio and William Zabka.
Noone would comment but I hear that, along with exclusive rights to Season 3 of Cobra Kai, the new outlet will have access on a non-exclusive basis to the first two seasons of the show for fans to catch up. That has been part of the negotiation with YouTube, which had ownership in and exclusive global rights to the first two seasons under the original license agreement with Sony TV.
Questions about the longterm future of Cobra Kai on YouTube arose when the company in late 2018 signaled a strategic shift from a SVOD to AVOD model and away from original scripted programming to double down on unscripted fare. Indeed, every YouTube scripted original to air since then has been canceled except for Cobra Kai and Liza on Demand, starring popular YouTube personality Liza Koshy, which have been renewed for additional seasons.
On the heels of a record-setting Season 2 premiere of Cobra Kai, YouTube in April 2019 ordered a third season. I hear YouTube remained committed to airing the completed third season but notified its Sony TV partners that they won’t be commissioning a fourth season.
Looking to secure a future for the show beyond Season 3, Sony TV asked for permission to shop the upcoming season to an outlet that, in success, would order additional seasons. Negotiations between the two sides ensued. They are nearing a successful conclusion but YouTube would not formally release the series until a new home has been secured, we hear.
The strong interest in Cobra Kai by other streamers was fueled, at least in part, by the dearth of high-end scripted programming coming down the pike as the Hollywood production shutdown is well into its third month. A finished season of a popular title with built-in audience is considered a hot commodity in the current environment.
Sony TV previously successfully relocated another scripted series that had been originally set up at YouTube, On Becoming a God in Central Florida. It moved to Showtime ahead of its debut and has been renewed for a second season by the ViacomCBS network.
The freshman season of Cobra Kai was a massive breakout hit, topping 55 million YouTube views for Episode 1 and ranking as the sixth-most Google-searched TV show in 2018.
Season 2 picked up following the shocking cliffhanger featuring the return of John Kreese (Martin Kove). When a new rivalry between opposing dojos is born in the aftermath of Cobra Kai’s controversial win at the All Valley Championships, Daniel (Macchio) realizes his next countermove is to open his own karate training school called Miyagi-Do, in honor of his mentor Mr. Miyagi.
Cobra Kai is written and executive produced by Josh Heald, and Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. Together, the trio conceived the new Karate Kid storyline that picks up decades after the original film.
Heald, Hurwitz and Schlossberg showrun the series and direct the bulk of the episodes. Will Smith, James Lassiter and Caleeb Pinkett executive produce for Overbrook Entertainment in association with Sony Pictures Television Studios. Susan Ekins, Macchio and Zabka are also Executive Producers.
YouTube’s originals division last month announced a slate of COVID-19 commissions that includes Celebrity Substitute, The Creator Games Presented by Mr Beast, Stay At Home With: Yungblud, #MoveWithMe, #StreamWithMe, The Secret Life of Lele Pons, BookTube: Read With Me, Locked Down, Untitled Juanpa and Luisito Project and Create Together #WithMe.