YouTube next week is set to launch its first exclusive programming — a test of how many customers will fork over $10 per month, the price of Netflix’s standard subscription plan, to watch movies and TV shows featuring the platform’s digital stars.
The video service on Feb. 10 will premiere three films and “Scare PewDiePie,” a reality-adventure series starring YouTube’s immensely popular Swedish game vlogger. Those will be available only to subscribers of YouTube Red, which provides ad-free viewing of all the site’s content as well as unlimited access to YouTube Music.
YouTube is betting that the new movies and series will help sway some portion of its billion-plus monthly users, accustomed to watching free videos for more than a decade, to pay for YouTube Red.
“The diverse, dynamic creators behind these films have already built massive audiences on YouTube, rivaling many cable shows,” Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content, wrote in a blog post. “With YouTube Red Originals, we want to help them tell bigger and bolder stories that delight you, their fans.” The former head of MTV programming joined YouTube last year.
The three movies are: “A Trip to Unicorn Island,” a documentary about Lilly Singh (aka IISuperwomanII) on her global tour; “Dance Camp,” a musical teen drama from AwesomenessTV; and “Lazer Team,” a sci-fi action-comedy from Rooster Teeth and Fullscreen Films.
YouTube is making the originals available for no extra charge to subscribers of YouTube Red, currently launched only in the U.S., and also will let users worldwide purchase the films and TV series.
“Scare PewDiePie” stars Felix Kjellberg (aka PewDiePie), arguably YouTube’s biggest star with nearly 42 million subscribers. The series comes from Disney’s Maker Studios and the creator and exec producers of “The Walking Dead” at Skybound Entertainment. In the show PewDiePie, who is affiliated with Maker, encounters terrifying situations inspired by his favorite video games.
“A Trip to Unicorn Island,” from Judy McGrath’s Astronauts Wanted, follows Singh — who counts more than 7.7 million YouTube subscribers — on her recent 27-city global tour. Teen-targeted “Dance Camp,” patterned on the successful formula Disney established with made-for-TV hits like “High School Musical,” stars popular YouTuber Meg DeAngelis, actor-dancer Nadji Jeter (“Grown Ups”) and top Vine creator Jake Paul.
Rooster Teeth’s “Lazer Team,” financed in part by $2.48 million from fans on Indiegogo, debuted theatrically last weekend worldwide and notched $1 million in ticket pre-sales. The movie is about four small-town losers who stumble on an alien ship carrying a mysterious cargo, leading to a battle to save Earth from an all-powerful enemy.
YouTube also launched a new YouTube Red Originals channel, which will feature clips, teasers and trailers for upcoming series and movies.
YouTube’s belief that its original productions on YouTube Red will find an audience is based on shifts in how consumers, especially millennials, are watching entertainment. On the Monday earnings call of Alphabet, Google’s parent company, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the time people spent watching YouTube in the living room more that doubled in 2015, but he didn’t provide specific figures.
Other previously announced projects on YouTube Red’s originals slate include: “Sing It!,” a series from Fine Brothers Entertainment and Mandeville Films; a reality murder-mystery series starring YouTube star Joey Graceffa; “Single by 30,” a romantic drama series from Wong Fu Productions and New Form Digital; and “Fight of the Living Dead,” a reality show from Alpine Labs with popular YouTubers trapped in a zombie apocalypse.
Watch a promo video for the YouTube Red Originals premieres: