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YouTube Boss on Streamer’s Future: ‘I Want To Win Some Emmys’

With a string of theatrical releases and the success of original series “Cobra Kai,YouTube has its sights set on its biggest score yet: the Emmys.

Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s head of original programming, said as the young streamer continues to expand into scripted shows and documentaries, one of her goals is “to win some Emmys.” Before that point, through, Daniels said she is looking for “unique, unusual stories and great talent behind them” that align with YouTube’s “youthful and adventurous” programming.

“I am aiming a little bit younger than I think Hulu is aiming and a little bit lighter and more fun,” Daniels told Variety at a celebration for YouTube Originals on Tuesday. “I think ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ is a fantastic show, but I wouldn’t program ‘Handmaid’s Tale,’ I’ll just go out on a limb and say it: too dark, I think, for YouTube’s brand, even though it’s a great show. I don’t think that’s a show for YouTube.”  

Joking that after the success of “Cobra Kai” all upcoming shows “are going to be film sequels,” the YouTube exec added that the streamer is starting to find its voice in a crowded TV landscape and said, “This year, we’re launching about a half-dozen broader appeal shows that don’t include endemic talent.”

YouTube has reached across demographics in particular with “Cobra Kai,” which follows the characters of “Karate Kid” 34 years after the original film. Star Ralph Macchio said that mix of viewers has been one of his favorite parts of reviving the story, saying, “People embrace the nostalgia of it all. The big ‘Karate Kid’ fans from back in the day, that piece of pop culture that it’s become, then you have college kids that are sort of enjoying all of that stuff and then you have high school kids that like our young cast and are waiting to see who’s going to end up with who. That’s been really special.”

Doug Liman, director and executive producer for YouTube Original show “Impulse,” also spoke about revisiting the world he created with “Jumper” in a TV format, and how working with the brand has provided the audience interaction he needs for his projects. He said that because viewers can comment below the shows like they would under any normal YouTube video, it’s similar to watching one of his films in a full theater.

“For me there’s a feedback system where I need to put it up in front of an audience and see if they’re having the experience I want them to have the recalibrate my senses,” Liman said. “It’s been amazing on YouTube to get that instant feedback.”

He also said that working at the newly established YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red) feels like “we’re part of this upstart,” elaborating, “I feel like I’m at this place where we’re young, scrappy and hungry but it’s also part of Google which is one of the biggest corporations in the world, meanwhile we’re this young scrappy thing. I don’t know if we’re the little engine that could or the Death Star.”  

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