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YouTube Creators Move to Series, Movies

By Marcy Magiera

YouTube this week will roll out the first original programming for its three month-old subscription streaming service, Red, in a move that will generate more traditional long-form series and feature film exposure for some of its top properties.

YouTube’s strategy with Red is to fund the passion projects of some of its biggest homegrown stars as a way to generate hit shows, building its subscriber base and diversifying revenues over time.  For $10 per month, Red subscribers get access to the new, original series and movies—putting YouTube in competition with Netflix, Amazon and Hulu—as well as the ability to watch videos across YouTube without ads and save videos to watch offline.

For YouTube’s celebrity creators, the longer formats provide an opportunity to deepen their already strong connections with fans, as well as to introduce themselves to new viewers. More viewers can mean greater earnings from a variety of sources including: a share of platform ad revenues and merchandise sales; brand endorsements; sponsored posts; creative consultation and development of personally branded products. While it’s rare for digital celebrities to benefit from major licensing programs (Bethany Mota’s Aeropostale relationship and Michelle Phan’s personal line with L’Oreal are notable exceptions), many do secure book deals and have merchandising programs with websites like Spreadshirt or Redbubble.

Among YouTube Red’s first four originals, bowing Feb. 10, are a reality-adventure series featuring the world’s biggest YouTube celeb, videogame commentator PewDiePie, and a feature-length documentary following vlogger Lilly Singh, aka llSuperwomanll (see chart). Still in development are scripted comedies from Fine Brothers Entertainment and Toby Turner and an adventure reality show featuring Joey Graceffa, among others.

When it comes to series programming, YouTube does not have a monopoly on its creators. Comedian Miranda Sings announced last month that she is creating an eight-episode series for Netflix called Haters Back Off. It’s the first scripted deal Netflix has done with a YouTube influencer, but it likely won’t be the last. Juan Bruce, writing on TechCrunch, explains: “YouTube stars are seemingly custom-created to appeal to Netflix and its digital-savvy customers. Life Netflix, the success of YouTube stars is driven and documented by big data that helps than figure out what resonates with a given audience.”

Select Series and Movies Starring YouTube Celebrities
Property Source Followers
(in mils.)
Show Notes
Miranda Sings
(Colleen Ballinger-Evans)
YouTube YT 5.9;
Twitter 2.2;
FB 1.6;
Instagram 3.5
Haters Back Off on Netflix 8-episode comedy series will take a closer look at the
family life of the off-key, lipstick challenged Miranda.
(Felix Kjellberg)
YouTube YT 42.0;
Twitter 7.0;
FB 6.9
Scare PewDiePie on YouTube Red In reality-adventure series Scare PewDiePie the gamer encounters terrifying situations inspired by his favorite video games.
(Colleen Ballinger-Evans)
YouTube YT 7.8;
Twitter 1.3;
FB 2.6;
Instagram 3.0
A Trip to Unicorn Island on YouTube Red Feature-length documentary follows performer Singh as she embarks on a global tour to spread her message about the pursuit of personal happiness.
Joey Graceffa YouTube YT 5.7;
Twitter 2.7;
FB 1.4
Untitled Joey Graceffa Project on YouTube Red In this reality adventure series, Graceffa will bring together other top YouTubers for a murder mystery.
(Toby Turner)
YouTube YT 6.4;
Twitter 1.3;
FB 1.3
I Am Tobuscus on YouTube Red Scripted comedy will satirize being a YouTube celebrity.


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