In a not-all-that unprecedented move, Variety reports that YouTube executives are reaching out to Hollywood producers for a potential investment into original programming, with a focus on supporting existing YouTube partners and talent. Projects would be helmed by YouTube creators, and funded by the platform in partnership with producers, possibly giving rise to webseries and other content not as easily produced on one’s own. The initiative is less of a swan dive than their 2011 project, which developed over $100 million worth of channels for celebrities and companies, many of which are now dormant on the streaming website. This time around, YouTube seems to be focusing on keeping its homegrown talent, encouraging them to stay on YouTube and develop their work where they started.
There are a few questions that pop up almost immediately, especially regarding which talent would be offered this kind of deal. How many subscribers would one need to have to qualify? Would YouTubers of color like Natalie Tran have this opportunity? How heavily would sponsorships from companies be featured? (Would it be similar to the Ford Fiesta Movement?) What kind of content would be mandated, if any, by YouTube or the producers that choose to invest? How tied down would the creator/s be? A YouTube source informed Variety that the deals would be limited to one-off series/projects only, but should they succeed, would it be possible for YouTube/producers to offer or demand further work?
I’m not surprised YouTube is doing this, but as a viewer, it makes me more wary of subscribing. A lot of what attracted me to YT vloggers was the spontaneity and authenticity of their experiences. There’s a lot of originality that could be lost, and I would be curious to see what kind of effect a Hollywood touch would have on this smaller, but influential platform. This also adds a bit more fog to the already hazy line regarding YouTube celebrity, which is a formidable issue (TW: sexual abuse/of minors) on its own.
On the surface, it reads like an amazing deal for creators and YouTube both, and I sincerely hope it is. The creativity that continues to grow on the video platform is astounding. But I’ll be watching carefully to see if an additional hand (or two or three) on the “REC” button might blur the film.