VidCon event also puts spotlight on upgrades in livestream functionality and creator support
Lionsgate is bringing the Channing Tatum starrer to YouTube Red with the actor on board as an executive producer along with his wife and co-star in the films, Jenna Dewan Tatum, and the five films’ original executive producers Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot and Meredith Milton. Series will bow in 2017.
Susanne Daniels, head of YouTube Originals, said she had been chasing the project since before coming over from the top programming job at MTV a year ago. She praised YouTube Red as a natural home for the franchise.
“We know dance is a hugely successfully global audience on YouTube,” said Daniels.
Launched in 2006, “Step Up” spawned four sequels and collected $650 million at the box office worldwide, establishing Tatum as a major star.
“After five exciting and successful movies, we’re proud to partner with YouTube Red, a major new force on the programming landscape, to adapt the films into an adrenaline-filled original drama series driven by its non-stop energy, spectacular dancing and A-list creative talent,” said Lionsgate Television Group chairman Kevin Beggs in a statement.
“Step Up” was one of six new projects Daniels unveiled at VidCon, including vehicles for some of the platform’s brightest stars like VSauce, Dan & Phil, Rhett & Link and Vanoss Gaming. YouTube Red also renewed some of its first-ever series “Scare PewDiePie” and AwesomenessTV’s “Foursome” and announced a film project with Defy Media comedy duo Smosh, which debuted their first scripted comedy series on YouTube earlier this year (but was not part of the YouTube Red lineup).
Launched last year in the U.S., YouTube Red has since expanded to Australia and New Zealand. More international markets are expected to be added in the coming year. The company has not revealed how many subscribers have signed up for YouTube Red, the exclusive home of the long-form series in addition to providing an ad-free viewing experience of all the platform’s content.
With nine projects having already launched, Daniels and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki also made pointed reference to the fact that some YouTube Red series were seeing audiences comparable to cable programming; “Scare PewDiePie” in particular was singled out as attracting a viewership on par with some of cable’s highest-rated series. However, neither executive shared specific numbers, a habit other streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime have also developed to the frustration of Hollywood.
As she has done at other past YouTube events, Wojcicki didn’t acknowledge by name the growing number of big digital platforms like Facebook and Snapchat that are giving the company competition in the video space but did single out a bigger target: television.
“While TV networks are losing audiences, we are growing in every region and across every screen,” she told the VidCon audience, noting that more millennials were watching YouTube on mobile alone during primetime than any broadcast or cable TV network.
Another area where Facebook wasn’t invoked specifically but loomed in the room was on the subject of livestreaming, where YouTube was first to market with a very limited functionality way back in 2011 only to see competitors like Periscope and Facebook Live get more attention for their more efforts. Now YouTube has begun rolling out a very similar mobile-friendly capability with select creators that will expand to the rest of the platform’s footprints in the coming months in an attempt to catch up to its rivals.
Kurt Wilms, product lead for immersive experiences at YouTube, took a not-so-subtle dig at a failed BuzzFeed effort to interview President Obama on Facebook Live in May, suggesting his own company’s infrastructure was more up to the task “just in case you want to do a livestream for an interview with the president.”
Wilms also discussed renewed efforts to invest more in 360-degree video and virtual reality on YouTube. In addition, YouTube scored points with the VidCon crowd on the platform by announcing several measures to improve support for creators including a more centralized hub for creator resources and the ability for every creator who enabled monetization to be able to interact with an actual YouTube employee within one business day to answer any questions they have.