NATPE 2015: YouTube on Track to Launch Originals by End of Year

Looks to raise advertising value in the process

Miami Beach, Fla.—YouTube is on track to launch its version of original series – both scripted and unscripted – by the end of the year, said Alex Carloss, YouTube’s head of originals, at NATPE 2015 in Miami.

While YouTube is planning to add original scripted and unscripted series to its mix, its budget, development and launch process is probably much different than that of traditional TV studios.

“We’re not in the TV production game at a TV level, but we’ll fund beyond what [YouTube creators] would typically be able to realize,” Carloss said.

Shows produced for YouTube also may not mimic the TV model, meaning that episodes could run five minutes each or 90 minutes each.

“I just heard the head of FX [John Landgraf] over the weekend opine that if you could remove restrictions of duration from 22 minutes or 44 minutes, you could rightsize your storytelling to what was appropriate,” Carloss said.

YouTube also isn’t interested in moving too far away from what’s already working for it, which includes lots of user-generated content, shareable clips, video bloggers with huge fan bases, sketch comedy and so forth.

“I don’t think you would want to move too far beyond [our established] playbook,” Carloss said, “but you could imagine a series of sketches stitched together and working, or an unscripted reality show focused on wish fulfillment or a next generation talk show shot in someone’s bedroom. You’ll see us really try to work our playbook but then try to raise that bar.”

YouTube’s originals department is divided into four “pods,” said Carloss: Scripted, unscripted, family and comedy. One of YouTube’s chief advantages in this space is its ability to move quickly and be flexible.

“We want to be able to double-down on wins and fail fast on misses,” he said.

Part of investing money in original content – instead of just allowing users to create it themselves – ties back to YouTube wanting to increase what it can charge for advertising. While some YouTube stars – such as PewDiePie, with nearly 34 million subscribers, or Bethany Mota, with 8.1 million, or Markiplier, with nearly 6 million – have as many or more subscribers than some popular primetime network TV shows, it costs far less to run an advertisement on a YouTube channel than it does on TV.

YouTube (and owner Google) wants to change that, so last year “we launched a program called Google Preferred at the upfronts that was a means for advertisers to reserve and buy the top 5% of channels and inventory that were available on YouTube. Advertisers had been asking for that kind of connectivity on a vertical basis. The program has been incredibly successful and it’s now rolling out around the world,” Carloss said. 

That also explains why it’s important to YouTube to drive some of its content to the top of its site, and create a rarified air around it.

That said, content such as the short clips from The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel Live will remain valuable to the Internet video site.

“We’ve shone the lights on people like Kimmel, Fallon and Conan O’Brien,” said Carloss. "Their material is really traveling so well on YouTube. It’s almost governing what their broadcast formats are starting to look like.”

Like everything else in this space, YouTube is rapidly evolving but Carloss doesn’t think it's going away anytime soon.

Said Carloss: “YouTube will remain a principal video destination for fans looking to have a deep relationship with the creative content that they love and identify with. As YouTube enters its 10th year, I don’t see that changing.”