The old Hollywood saying “perception is reality” rings true in new media. Just ask Susanne Daniels, global head of original content at YouTube, who is being inducted into Variety’s Home Entertainment Hall of Fame on Dec. 4.
Earlier this year, YouTube’s subscription streaming service was rebranded to YouTube Premium, shedding the YouTube Red moniker it had had since its 2015 launch — a name that had subjected the service, build around long-form scripted and unscripted programming, to smirks and raised eyebrows due to a similarly named porn site.
Daniels conceded at July’s Television Critics Assn.’s summer press tour that the old name “didn’t really speak to what the service was to viewers.”
Indeed, YouTube’s more sophisticated pay service provides not just ad-free streaming of regular YouTube videos — and the option to download content for offline viewing, but also exclusive original content, much of it produced in collaboration with the site’s major contributors.
That plays right into Daniels’ wheelhouse. A veteran entertainment executive who most recently was president of programming at MTV and, before that, president of Lifetime Television and the WB, Daniels has led the development of some of TV’s most iconic shows, from “Dawson’s Creek” and “Charmed” to “Smallville,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”
She’s now leading YouTube’s original-content charge, including programming strategy, development, and production of series and feature films from some of YouTube’s most successful creators.
And already, there are signs that Daniels has lost none of her magic touch. Back in May, YouTube Premium’s “Cobra Kai,” a digital original that’s a spinoff of the Karate Kid movie franchise, became the fledgling channel’s first real hit, outperforming Netflix and Hulu hits including “13 Reasons Why,” “The Handmaid’s Tale” and “Strangers Things,” according to Parrot Analytics data.