YouTube features millions of videos that garner more than a billion unique views every month. As the company looks toward its future, YouTube wants to invest more of its time — and money — in creating more original digital series and "ambitious" films with the help of Hollywood talent like Ron Howard and Morgan Spurlock.
YouTube's head of global content, Susanne Daniels, told a group of critics at the company's flagship studio in Los Angeles on Friday that since YouTube launched its new subscription platform, YouTube Red, membership has far exceeded their expectations. As a result, the company is looking into ways to increase the level of quality in their original series and films and produce more than ever before.
"YouTube is all in on original content," Daniels said. "We want to open Hollywood's rolodex and introduce our creators to visionary directors, writers and producers."
"YouTube is more than a platform, it's a home"
Daniels said that merging upcoming creators and Hollywood's best has been a goal for a while and within the past seven months, they've released 10 original series and films that have caught the eye of producers who otherwise wouldn't have given YouTube a glance. According to Daniels, the creative freedom YouTube gives to creators is an element that industry veterans have come to desire.
"We want YouTube to serve as a home to creators and creative voices who understand that YouTube is the future of content and is a platform with more than a billion viewers a month," Daniels said.
One of the biggest collaboration projects YouTube has is a 90-minute documentary, Vlogumentary, created by YouTube personality Shay "Carl" Butler and award-winning director Morgan Spurlock. Spurlock said that YouTube has fascinated him since the site's inception and as a fan of the site, he wanted to tell the story of the creators that make a living off of it. Spurlock said that many people still don't view YouTube as a viable career, but there are hundreds of actors, writers and directors all working on projects specifically for the platform and creating a life for themselves solely doing that. Spurlock added that it was a bit of a revolution in the industry.
"YouTube is the new studio," Spurlock said. "It's the new network."
"YouTube is more than a platform, it's a home," Butler added. "It's a safe place for kids to go and sometimes it's the only place for them to go. It's more than just, 'Where do I go to consume my content?' It's a community."
Daniels said that making people aware that YouTube is more than just cat videos — although she added that she did love cat videos — was a main goal for the company, and that includes competing with the networks. Despite Daniels' positivity about the future of YouTube, the executive did get defensive when asked about how ratings work for the company.
"The fans understand that PewDiePie is doing something new on his channel"
YouTube, like Netflix, does not need to abide by the same ratings guidelines that broadcast and cable networks. As such, while YouTube releases its own numbers that they've researched on how many people are watching their series, there's no official third-party collecting information, too. Daniels said that unfortunately there has never been a perfect ratings systems, and despite other network heads claiming that YouTube's numbers are off, they weren't focused on that.
"I think there needs to be a more accurate system across the board," Daniels said. "I was never happy with Nielsen when I was at a network [The CW], but I don't think there's a great system anywhere.
"I don't think we can get any fairer than what we're reporting on YouTube."
Daniels said they want to work more with their top content creators — including PewDiePie — to create more original series for Red, but was adamant that they would not stop creating free videos for their fans.
"The fans understand that PewDiePie is doing something new on his channel that he couldn't do without a bigger budget," Daniels said. "As long as he's continuing to offer them free material, they don't feel abandoned. In fact, we've seen a big subscription hike because he's offering more original content on his Red channel."
A YouTube Red subscription runs for $9.99 a month and allows people to access original content across all of YouTube's channels, including Music and Gaming.