YouTube Hires EMEA Originals Chief From Disney

Hire follows Google's EMEA chief saying it wants more content out of the U.K.

YouTube’s strategy of working up original programming from international markets moved a step forward Thursday with the appointment of Luke Hyams as the first head of originals for the EMEA region.

Hyams joins the Google-owned video platform from Disney, where he worked on digital content. He joins YouTube as it pushes deeper into originals, having recently greenlit “Training Days,” an unscripted soccer entertainment series from James Corden’s Fulwell 73, presented by Jack Whitehall (“Good Omens”). It will play as an ad-supported series on the main YouTube platform.

As EMEA content chief, Hyams will be based in Google’s London HQ. Prior to Disney, he created youth-skewed drama series “Dubplate Drama,” which was on Channel 4 in the U.K. “I’m excited to join the YouTube family to help explore opportunities for EMEA creators around original content,” he said about his new role.

He added: “YouTube is a fantastic platform for creators to earn a living from their videos. With YouTube Originals, we’re enabling them, as well as traditional writers and producers, to bring new, ambitious series to EMEA viewers with additional opportunities for advertisers to reach engaged audiences.”

YouTube, Twitter and other digital platforms are increasingly originating content for ad-supported and subscription services. The YouTube Red SVOD service has launched in the U.S., Mexico and a handful of other territories, but has yet to hit the U.K. “We’re in five markets and we’d like to launch in more, but it takes a bunch of time to get there, and we’d like to commission more content,” said Matt Brittin, Google’s president, business operations, EMEA.

Brittin issued a rallying call to British producers at a Royal Television Society event in London last week. He said the U.K. business could be “incredibly inward-looking” but had a tremendous opportunity to create international content. “The audience is watching 80% of [YouTube] content outside of the country it was created in, so there’s a huge export audience,” he said.

YouTube recently ordered sci-fi original “Origin” from Left Bank, the British production company behind “The Crown,” and the signs are good for other U.K.-based content companies. Brittin said: “We’re commissioning long-form content for our paid service, and we want to commission as much of that as possible, frankly, from people in the U.K. because we have an amazing creative industry and the world knows that.”

Digital and tech giants are also increasingly moving for live sports rights. YouTube has rowing coverage in the U.K. – Brittin is himself a former Olympic oarsman – and has taken premium cricket rights in India. “I think there’s huge opportunities for sports,” the Google boss said, but added that a play for English Premier League rights won’t happen in the upcoming rights auction. “I think right now, the ad model [doesn’t generate] enough for that kind of bid. A subscription model might, but we won’t be at the front of the queue in subscription models for a while,” he said.

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