YouTube Leans Into Quarantine Programming: Unveils Originals Featuring MrBeast, Yungblud, Karlie Kloss and More

YouTube Originals - Yungblud, MrBeast
Broadimage/Shutterstock (Yungblud); YouTube (MrBeast)

YouTube has shaken up its slate of originals, bringing out a revamped lineup of shows and specials over the next two months designed for stay-at-home viewers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new lineup includes weekly series “Stay Home With: Yungblud,” following the U.K. recording artist and his band as they adjust to a remote lifestyle while creating music; short-form family series “Create Together #WithMe,” hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt; “The Secret Life of Lele Pons,” a docuseries about the influencer’s mental health struggles; and “Celebrity Substitute,” in which guest stars including Karlie Kloss, Ken Jeong, Bill Nye, Camila Mendes, Janelle Monáe and Terry Crews teach a subject alongside an actual high school teacher.

In addition, YouTube is launching a series with personalities using the platform’s live-streaming capabilities. Kicking it off will be live event “The Creator Games Presented by MrBeast,” hosted by top YouTuber and giveaway artist MrBeast (over 34 million subscribers) on April 25, with proceeds going to a COVID-19-related charitable organization.

YouTube’s overhauled originals lineup keys off its “#StayHome #WithMe” campaign,” launched last month with videos from influencers encouraging people to self-quarantine during the pandemic.

When the coronavirus pandemic hit, YouTube’s originals team suspended traditional production. They then pivoted to create a slate of shows around the #WithMe campaign, said Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content.

“We did this more quickly than I’ve ever done with a production slate in my career,” Daniels said.

Ad spending is down, she acknowledged, while YouTube watch time has increased globally. With the new originals, “YouTube wanted to step up and contribute and offer relevant, useful entertainment to as many communities as we could,” Daniels said.

YouTube over a year ago abandoned its strategy of using originals to drive YouTube Premium subscriptions and now makes all of its original programming available free to view with ads. Two weeks ago, it also opened up free access to older YouTube originals, including kids and family content.

Other upcoming originals include YouTube’s first beauty competition series, “Instant Influencer” with James Charles (premiering April 24), “TWICE: Seize the Light,” an eight-part docuseries on the K-pop girl group (premiering April 29) and “Dude Perfect: Backstage Pass” chronicling the YouTube supergroup’s rise to fame (premiering May 11). Later this year, YouTube plans to debut third seasons of scripted series “Cobra Kai” and “Liza on Demand”; a live event with David Blaine; and documentary series “This Is Paris” about Paris Hilton.

Here is the current list of YouTube’s new originals:

  • “The Creator Games Presented by MrBeast” (premieres April 25 at 6 p.m. ET): A global live event where MrBeast (real name: Jimmy Donaldson) challenges other YouTube stars to remotely go head-to-head in stay-at-home games where there can be only one winner. Produced by Night Media and Fly On the Wall.
  • “Stay Home With: Yungblud” (premieres April 27): Weekly episodic series follows Yungblud through a month at a rental apartment in L.A. along with four friends – his manager, videographer and two bandmates with whom he is quarantined. The series will encourage viewers to donate to support No Kid Hungry and is produced by Stick Figure Entertainment.
  • “#MoveWithMe” (premieres April 29): In celebration of International Dance Day, this special will feature choreographer Matt Steffanina as host, with dancers and choreographers from across the globe coming together to collaborate including LaurieAnn Gibson, WilldaBeast Adams, Chachi Gonzales, Kasia Jukowska, Vale Merino, Sonali Bhadauria, FitDance, Kaelynn KK Harris, Twist And Pulse, and D-trix. The special will encourage viewers to donate to support the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund for WHO and is produced by Den of Thieves.
  • “Stream #WithMe” (UK) – premieres April 30: Some of the U.K.’s top YouTube creators and stars let us in on how they are coping with the lockdown experience in a live-streaming celebration of solidarity. Viewers will be encouraged to donate to support NHS Charities Together and is made in partnership with Electric Robin (part of EndemolShine UK).
  • “Celebrity Substitute” (premieres May 7): Celebrities and educators come together in this distance-learning series. In each episode, a celebrity steps in to teach crucial high school lessons with real teachers. Examples include Karlie Kloss working through a coding problem and Ken Jeong giving a biology lesson. Produced by B17 Entertainment.
  • “The Secret Life of Lele Pons”: Five-part docuseries premieres May 19, promising a “raw and intimate” look into her lifelong struggles with Tourette syndrome and OCD. Produced by Shots Studios.
  • “Create Together #WithMe” (working title) – premieres May 2020: In this miniseries hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, he invites friends and families from all over the world who are coping with isolation to showcase their creativity and collaboration. Each weekly episode will document the creative process as people find each other online and remotely collaborate on a variety of family friendly projects — short films, short documentaries, music videos, and more. Produced by Brian Graden Media and Gordon-Levitt’s HITRECORD.
  • “BookTube” Read With Me Special and Mental Health Episode (premieres May 21 and June 2020): YouTube’s monthly book club series is creating a special “Read With Me” episode featuring Melinda Gates, John Grisham, James Patterson, Elizabeth Gilbert, Nicholas Sparks, Elaine Welteroth, and more sharing their current book recommendations. Additionally, the June 2020 episode of “BookTube” will feature authors Dr. Vivek Murthy, former U.S. Surgeon General (author of “Together: The Healing Power of Human Connection in a Sometimes Lonely World”), Lori Gottlieb (author of “Maybe You Should Talk to Someone”) and Haemin Sunim (author of “The Things You Can Only See When You Slow Down”) discussing anxiety, mental health, and advice for self care during these uncertain times. “BookTube” is produced by Boardwalk Pictures.
  • “Locked Down” (working title) – premieres May 2020: Scripted event series follows a group of bored teens working together online to solve a mystery involving one of their neighbors — shot entirely via webcam and smartphone. The story unfolds almost in real-time as the friends work to solve the mystery, while also exploring their own anxieties and frustrations about life during a pandemic. Created and produced by Toronto-based Sinking Ship Entertainment (“Dino Dana,” “Endlings,” “Odd Squad”).
  • Untitled Juanpa and Luisito Project – premieres May 2020: Top Latin American YouTube creators Juanpa Zurita (10.2 million subscribers) and Luisito Communica (30.6 million subscribers) come together for the first time to document the COVID-19 quarantine by sharing personal stories from around the globe, including YouTube creators, health specialists, and everyday people. Produced by DW Entertainment & Media.
  • “Money Talks: Taxes” (streaming now): A roundtable of leading female financial experts provide answers to the questions surrounding personal finances; the first series of videos covers questions about filing taxes and COVID-19 stimulus checks. Produced by Vice Media Group’s Refinery29.