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YouTube is stepping up its investment in original content

Early success of Red subscription service means more funding and support for creators like PewDiePie

YouTube is so pleased with the performance of its Red subscription service that it will increase its investment in content being created for the platform.

Last week, YouTube's head of global content Susanne Daniels briefed a group of critics - Polygon included - that subscriptions to the $9.99 a month Red service had "far exceeded their expectations" since it debuted in October last year. It will now pour more resources into creating more and better content for those subscribers.

Daniels also reinforced the idea that YouTube Red is a platform for creators to move on to even bigger projects, with ten original series created for the service now in talks with producers in Hollywood.

"We've seen a big subscription hike because [PewDiePie] is offering more original content on his Red channel"

"YouTube is all in on original content," Daniels said. "We want to open Hollywood's rolodex and introduce our creators to visionary directors, writers and producers."

Exactly which series have attracted such attention is unclear, but personalities associated with the games industry are a core part of Red's offering. Felix "PewDiePie" Kjellberg is, of course, the most visible of those, and Daniels specifically mentioned Kjellberg as an example of a creator with whom YouTube wants to work on more premium content. However, Daniels was clear that this would not mean an end to his free videos.

"The fans understand that PewDiePie is doing something new on his channel that he couldn't do without a bigger budget," Daniels said. "As long as he's continuing to offer them free material, they don't feel abandoned. In fact, we've seen a big subscription hike because he's offering more original content on his Red channel."

At present, the success of YouTube Red is being judged by its own standards alone, and the decision to increase investment could be interpreted in several different ways. Daniels claimed that, during her time at MTV, the highest number of individual viewers for a series episode was 3 million, with showpiece awards ceremonies topping out at 8 million.

"Now I'm at YouTube, where we reach over a billion people every single month, including more 18-to-49-year-olds on mobile alone than any broadcast or cable network I've ever worked for," she said. "This platform has more power to reach an audience and be more influential than traditional television."

"We want to open Hollywood's rolodex and introduce our creators to visionary directors, writers and producers"

However, as Variety noted in its own account of the briefing, the way YouTube reports its numbers has been criticised by executives from several TV networks. Earlier this year, the head of research at FX, Julie Piepenkotter, said that the way digital viewing is measured - in increments of two seconds - would be enormously flattering to conventional TV shows. Piepenkotter cited FX's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story as an example, which would have received 259 billion views if measured in that way.

"I think there needs to be as accurate a system as possible, but I was never a fan of Nielsen's back when I was at the networks," Daniels said. "I don't think there's a great system anywhere."

Daniels added that 4 million people had watched the pilot for an original YouTube Red series called Foursome. "I don't think it can get better than that," she said.

If YouTube Red is indeed thriving, it could be have a significant impact on both the games media and the games industry in general. In an editorial published last year, Rob Fahey declared YouTube Red a, "turning point."

"There's a clear need for some kind of revenue model to fund professional content creation on the Internet," he wrote. "This is something that's vital to the videogames industry at large, large swathes of which are strongly dependent (whether acknowledging it or not) on a healthy, successful games media.

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Matthew Handrahan avatar
Matthew Handrahan: Matthew Handrahan joined GamesIndustry in 2011, bringing long-form feature-writing experience to the team as well as a deep understanding of the video game development business. He previously spent more than five years at award-winning magazine gamesTM.
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