YouTube claims its new windowing strategy for originals — making them available to watch free, with ads, for everyone — is delivering big audiences just as execs hoped.
Season 2 of “Liza on Demand,” the sitcom starring and co-created by popular YouTube comedian Liza Koshy, scored more views for debut episode “Naked” in its first week than any of the video platform’s original series to date. In the episode, through a series of mishaps, Koshy’s character accidentally finds herself nude in public — and she later strips bare on a city street in a bid to prove she has nothing to hide.
Across all episode 1 debuts for YouTube Original shows, “Liza on Demand” had the biggest debut ever with 25 million views in the first seven days (Sept. 25-Oct. 1), according to YouTube. “Cobra Kai” season 2, a spinoff of the “Karate Kid” movies, previously held the seven-day record with 21 million views in April 2019, followed by “Cobra Kai” season 1, which had 18.6 million views for the premiere ep in its first seven days in May 2018.
“The success of ‘Liza on Demand’ is proof that our [ad-supported video-on-demand] strategy is working,” said Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content, in an emailed statement. She added, “Liza is an amazing talent who’s successfully built a home on YouTube as both a creator and the star of her own hit original.”
YouTube attributes the strong showing in part to the fact that it made all episodes of “Liza on Demand” season 1 free in August, generating new fans who tuned in for S2. To be sure, the record turnout for season 2’s bow also was driven by viewers who knew they’d eventually be able to see the full run for free. Also, the premiere’s nudity theme undoubtedly piqued interest.
YouTube premiered season 2 of the scripted comedy for both YouTube Premium subscribers (who got immediate binge release of the entire season) as well as weekly episodic roll-outs with ads for free to watch on YouTube. The first episode now has more than 74 million views in just over two weeks.
A caveat on YouTube’s self-reported “views” metric: It’s not comparable to TV ratings. YouTube uses a secret algorithm to count views, tallying users who watched some portion of a video (varying depending on overall length) and discarding “low-quality playbacks” like those generated by bots. In addition, YouTube publicly reports views only for the premiere episodes of its original series (which it has made available for free under a sampling strategy since the get-go). That means it’s impossible to gauge how well YouTube Originals are retaining audience over the course of a season.
In any case, the “Liza on Demand” team is pleased to hold the title of most-watched YouTube Originals premiere episode for “Naked.”
“The launch of season 2 speaks to YouTube’s unique power to reach so many people directly,” show creators Liza Koshy, Harry Elfont and Deborah Kaplan said in a joint statement. “The success is a testament to everyone behind and in front of the camera. It’s this collaborative force and family of ours that created a fun, fearless (and free!) comedy.”
Liza Koshy in “Liza on Demand” season 2, episode 1 (“Naked”)
“Liza on Demand” season 2 continues the misadventures of Liza (Liza Koshy) and her roommates Harlow (Kimiko Glenn) and Oliver (Travis Coles) as the millennial pals navigate relationships, trends and making ends meet. Guest actors in the second season include Rachael Leigh Cook, Andy Daly, Josh Peck, Chrissie Fit, Jim O’Heir, Kevin Nealon and Nora Dunn.
The series is produced by Above Average, the digital studio formed in 2012 by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video, with Sam Childs serving as producer. Executive producers are Liza Koshy, Deborah Kaplan (“Can’t Hardly Wait”) and Harry Elfont (“Can’t Hardly Wait,” “Josie and The Pussycats”), and Courtney Carter.
YouTube’s shift to a dual AVOD/SVOD release strategy comes as it has dialed back on scripted originals, having canceled several projects in the past year. The originals team has refocused on tentpole scripted series like “Liza on Demand,” “Cobra Kai,” Doug Liman’s “Impulse” and “Escape the Night” with Joey Graceffa, while upping investments in music, learning and personality-driven programming.
Pictured above (l. to r.): Travis Coles, Liza Koshy, Kimiko Glenn in YouTube’s “Liza on Demand”