As Apple Makes a Splash Into Prestige Programming, YouTube Quietly Leaves the Pool



YouTube Originals aren’t dead, but they are looking to a new form of sustenance- fully ad-supported programming.

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Apple’s latest product announcement included the long-awaited preview of their Apple TV+ concept, with an “upfronts”-style presentation from high-powered creators, actors, and producers. Between their foray into the streaming wars, and the forthcoming offerings from Disney, it might seem like everyone is getting into the prestige TV game. But it appears that one entity is trying to back away from it: YouTube.

Rethinking “Red”

YouTube’s previously touted Red service has pivoted this year from a premium streaming TV provider to a paid music service. Once a home for its original programming, the company has since moved away from its subscription-based model for these shows (including acclaimed Karate Kid offshoot Cobra Kai, Step Up: High Water, Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television, and others). What will replace it by year’s end is an ad-supported model that ultimately allows all YouTube Originals to be available for free.

Amid talks that two high-profile Originals series, Origin and Overthinking with Kat and June, were being cancelled, Bloomberg’s Lucas Shaw speculated that the company was moving away from original programming outright. Parts of the story were later refuted, instead revealing this shift in strategy. While the YouTube spokesperson did confirm the two series’ cancellation, they also reaffirmed the company’s dedication to producing original shows, and alluded to a slate of returning and new shows being announced in the weeks to come.

YouTube’s Silver Lining in Streaming

This commitment to providing prestige content with ads is unusual for competitors in the streaming wars- for many, it might just look like YouTube has simply given up. But in this seeming capitulation may lie an opportunity to help YouTube solve a different challenge. Given how volatile its ad business has been in the wake of child pornography and anti-vax content controversies, offering “safer” options for its advertisers through vetted and platform-produced programming may provide peace of mind for clients and company alike.

In either case, it’s providing added job security for head of YouTube Originals programming and WB alumna Suzanne Daniels. The Bloomberg report indicated she’d be seeking a home elsewhere, but she insists that refining this strategy for YouTube is the only thing in her sights at present. “While it’s strangely flattering to be the topic of Hollywood gossip, please know I am committed to YouTube and can’t wait to unveil our robust slate of new and returning originals,” she shared with Bloomberg.

Look for YouTube to unveil this revised slate of ad-supported programming in the weeks to come.

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