YouTube Originals Chief Susanne Daniels Talks Rebranding, Budget, ‘Cobra Kai’

Susanne Daniels, YouTube Premium Executive Session panel, TCA Summer Press Tour, Los Angeles, USA - 27 Jul 2018
David Buchan/Variety/REX/Shutterstock

YouTube’s recent rebranding of its subscription streaming service is thus far a success, according to the company’s global head of original content, Susanne Daniels.

YouTube Premium seems to be working so far,” Daniels said Friday at the Television Critics Association’s summer press tour.

In May, YouTube Red, the subscription service launched in 2015 and built around long-form scripted and unscripted programming, was renamed YouTube Premium. The original name had been a head-scratcher for many, and drew mocking comparisons to a popular port site with a similar name.

I think we valiantly tried, and at a certain point realized that YouTube Red wasn’t sending the message about what offering is,” Daniels said. “It didn’t really speak to what the service was to viewers. After a while spending good money after bad in marketing and getting the research back that it really wasn’t resonating with viewers, we decided to rebrand and rename it.”

Daniels, whose career prior to YouTube included stints as top programming executive at the WB and MTV, also spoke about series budgets, and whether YouTube would follow competitors such as HBO and Netflix into eight-figure per-episode spending.

You’re probably not going to see us spend that amount of money for a ‘Game of Thrones’ or one whole series, or for a ‘Westworld,'” Daniels said. “I’ve always been a believer that you could make great shows for less money, and it’s not the episodic spend that makes something great. We’re still going to be doing a lot of content. We’re producing a lot of content. We’re going to roll out another 15 shows this year, we’ve rolled out 15 already.”

She added, “We’re really excited about what we’re doing. I don’t need $10 million an episode to create great content.”

Daniels also joked about the Emmy nomination for stunt work that original series “Cobra Kai” received — the first Emmy nomination for a YouTube original.

“It’s not enough,” she said. “We were robbed. I’m sorry, but ‘Cobra Kai’ deserved much more in my humble opinion. And I didn’t write that show. I just bought the show and got lucky. But I think the show is great. Obviously it’s self serving to say that, but it’s great. It’s done incredibly well, and the voters should have recognized it in more ways than just stunts. Although the stunts are very good.”