YouTube, DreamWorks Animation to Produce Daily Original Series (EXCLUSIVE)

Rare foray into original daily content will get homepage real estate beginning in January

In an unusual collaboration for both parties, YouTube and DreamWorks Animation are co-producing an original program to air daily on the world’s most popular digital destination, according to sources who said the launch is likely to occur before the end of January.

“YouTube Nation” is expected to provide a daily highlight reel of what content is trending on the Google-owned platform based on its own proprietary data in a syndicated newsmagazine-style format akin to what “TMZ” looks like on TV. The format isn’t exactly a new style, given the popularity of more comedic versions like the web series “=3,” which creator and star Ray William Johnson recently indicated he intended to end sometime this year.

The program, which is expected to be touted on the YouTube home page, would be a new kind of initiative for YouTube, which doesn’t typically program its own content beyond the occasional one-off like the YouTube Music Awards. But insiders say the series is expected to serve as a beacon to draw more attention to the dynamic breeding ground of content that is emerging from its partners, which range from big media companies to one-man operations like Johnson’s that have achieved incredible audience scale. Selling ads against homepage content could also fetch a pretty penny.

“YouTube Nation” is a passion project of both YouTube programming chief Robert Kyncl and DreamWorks Animation Jeffrey Katzenberg, who has been moving aggressively to diversify his company beyond the movie business. In addition to broad deals with Netflix and RTL to produce hundreds of hours of original series based on intellectual property derived from DWA movies like “The Croods,” the company also acquired one of the fastest-growing YouTube multichannel networks, AwesomenessTV, which is expected to continue operating separately from “YouTube Nation.”

Reps for YouTube and DreamWorks Animation declined comment.

TheVideoInk first reported that “YouTube Nation” was in development last year. It’s actually not Google’s first attempt to make this format work as an original series; YouTube teamed with production company Embassy Row in 2008 for a similar production called “Poptub” that didn’t get much traction.

Whether this will be just a one-off or is the beginning of a new content strategy for YouTube is unknown but it’s likely “YouTube Nation” will play a part in the company’s pitch to advertisers at the NewFronts later this year. As content investment goes, it’s likely a modest sum given this kind of unscripted entertainment is a far cry from the costs of what a Netflix would pay for a scripted drama series like “House of Cards.”

In recent years, YouTube has restricted its investment in content to funding dozens of channels with original content from a range of media partners. But after using that strategy to stimulate the marketplace in 2012, the company cut funding for a good portion of those channels as it gained a better understanding of what programming did and didn’t work on its platform. In addition, YouTube maintains investments in two of the leading digital-only programmers, gamer-centric Machinima and music-video hub Vevo.