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YouTube to Fund Smosh, Fine Bros., AwesomenessTV Original Content

YouTube announced the first partners to receive funding under its original-content program, which will include comedy series from Smosh and the Fine Bros. as well as feature-length films produced by AwesomenessTV.

The goal: to keep YouTube’s top content partners generating material for the No. 1 Internet video service, amid growing competition from the likes of Facebook, Vessel and Vimeo. YouTube has been working on the project since at least last summer.

YouTube head of originals Alex Carloss, who announced the deals Tuesday in a blog post, did not disclose what the company is investing in the productions. But unlike with the Google-owned site’s 2012 original channels initiative — for which it spent about $200 million to fund some 100 channels — the new YouTube strategy is tightly focused on a smaller number of high-profile talent and partners.

YouTube and AwesomenessTV, which is majority-owned by DreamWorks Animation, will collaborate on several films over the next two years, with the first anticipated to be released this fall. Each of the pics will feature YouTube stars and will be developed and produced by AwesomenessTV CEO Brian Robbins.

“The films will all premiere globally on YouTube before they become available elsewhere, setting what we believe will become a new distribution paradigm for years to come,” Carloss wrote.

YouTube also is funding original series from four major channel partners: Smosh, Fine Bros., vlogger Joey Graceffa and Prank vs. Prank.

Smosh, the comedy duo of childhood buddies Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox (pictured above), will star in a series in which they work in a theme restaurant where out-of-control kids and crazy parents are all in a day’s work. Smosh, whose digital properties are run by Defy Media, have more than 35 million subscribers across their YouTube channels. This summer, they’ll also star in “Smosh: The Movie,” produced by Defy and AwesomenessTV.

The Fine Bros., the sibling team of Benny and Rafi Fine, are working on a new scripted comedy series that satirizes TV singing competition shows, produced in partnership with Mandeville Films. Their YouTube channels have over 17 million subscribers.

Prank vs. Prank, which has nearly 14 million subscribers across its channels, will launch a new series of ambitious pranks featuring celebrity guests with hosts Jesse and Jeana.

Finally, YouTube is producing a murder-mystery reality series starring Graceffa along with other popular YouTubers. The 23-year-old has more than 5 million subscribers for his channel, which includes a mix of daily vlogs, scripted series and short films.

“We hope that these new series and feature films, as well as those that follow, give top creators a new way to showcase their talent to fans on YouTube,” Carloss wrote in the post.

YouTube will highlight the new original content deals at the Digital Content NewFronts in New York on Wednesday.

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