YouTube is stepping up its original content game once more, with new series ordered from Community’s Dan Harmon, Doug Liman and even The Rock himself.
YouTube launched its own subscription service, YouTube Red, last year, charging subscribers $9.99 a month (it is only available in the US at present) for an ad-free viewing experience, complete with offline downloads and access to Spotify rival Google Play Music.
Like Netflix, Susanne Daniels, global head of content for YouTube, says that original, exclusive videos are one of the main drivers of subscriptions, with viewership that “rivals cable shows in the US”. YouTube Red users watch over 75 per cent more YouTube video on their TVs than the average user.
Unlike Netflix, though, Daniels insists that YouTube’s content strategy is different, not bringing traditional TV to digital but creating new formats around its own vlogging stars.
“Our goal is to be uniquely YouTube,” the former MTV exec explained in a keynote speech at Mipcom “And our thesis is simple: 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.”
And so she announced an ambitious slate of new titles. Edge of Tomorrow director Doug Liman and Universal Cable will produce Impulse, a sci-fi thriller about a young girl who discovers she can teleport away from danger. Jeff Lieber (Lost) will write and produce the series, which will star high-profile YouTubers.
Dan Harmon’s Starburns Industries will also produce a half-hour scripted comedy, following a newly formed team of eSports players trying to make it to the top in the cutthroat gaming world. YouTubers Dan Avidan and Arin Hanson of Game Grumps will star.
These days, though, YouTube’s community also includes more traditional celebrities too. That includes Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, who has over 1.3 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. It should come as no surprise, then, that YouTube and The Rock are cooking a new half-hour action series. Provisionally called Lifeline, the show will centre on a life insurance company that sends agents forward 33 days in time to prevent the accidental deaths of its clients. Johnson will executive produce, with ProSiebenSat.1’s Studio71 and Corridor Digital producing.
“We’re taking our YouTube partnership to the next level with Lifeline,” said Johnson in a statement to Variety. “YouTube has given me the opportunity to connect with my fans on a very direct level, and now we’re teaming up with the most innovative creators in the game to bring our special brand of action adventure to the audience.”
The shows join a growing slate of Red originals, including a series based on the Step Up franchise, exec produced by Channing Tatum. YouTube has also renewed murder mystery series Escape the Night from YouTuber Joey Graceffa for a second season. The renewal follows further commissions of a second season of AwesomenessTV’s Foursome, Scare PewDiePie, and a sequel to Rooster Teeth’s Lazer Team film.
Before then, YouTube Red will premiere a post-apocalyptic young adult thriller, called The Thinning, starring digital celeb Logan Paul and Disney Channel star Peyton List, as well as comedy series Buddy System from YouTubers Rhett & Link, plus a concert special and documentary from British vloggers Dan and Phil.
Here’s the full rundown of the new commissions, courtesy of Variety:
An eight-episode sci-fi thriller, directed by Corridor Digital’s Sam Gorski and Niko Pueringer, written by Ben Freiburger and Grant Wheele and exec produced by Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Brian Gewirtz and Hiram Garcia (Seven Bucks Productions), plus Dan Weinstein, Gary Binkow and Amee Dolleman (Studio71). Set to be released in 2017.
Based on the third novel in Steven Gould’s Jumper series, the pilot will be written by Lost’s Jeffrey Lieber and will begin production before the end of the year. Exec produced by Doug Liman, alongside Hypnotic’s David Bartis and Gene Klein, who also produce Universal Cable Productions’ Suits for USA Networks.
Untitled comedy from Dan Harmon’s Starburns Industries
Created by gaming-industry professionals Michele Morrow and Jesse Cox, who also will appear in the series, about a team of eSports players trying to make it to the top in the cutthroat world of competitive gaming. The six-episode series will debut on Game Grumps’ YouTube channel in 2017. Exec produced by Dan Harmon (Community, Rick & Morty), Michael Waldron, Steve Levy, Arin Hanson and Brent Lilley, alongside Morrow and Cox. Sarah Carbiener and Erica Rosbe (Rick & Morty) will serve as showrunners and writers, as well as co-EPs.
Escape the Night Season 2
Returning star and host Joey Graceffa will transport 10 YouTube creators into a new murder mystery, produced by Brian Graden Media and Graceffa. The first season, which debuted in June, has generated over 9.2 million views and featured GloZell, iJustine, Lele Pons, Shane Dawson, Eva Gutowski, Andrea Brooks, Timothy DeLaGhetto, Matt Haag, Oli White and Sierra Furtado. Season 2 will air in 2017.