Variety reports that Google’s original video content group, YouTube Originals, is dead. The YouTube division was founded six years ago to create exclusive and original content for the paid YouTube Premium service. Now the group is being shut down, and YouTube’s global head of original content, Susanne Daniels, is leaving the company in March.
Right after the news broke, YouTube Chief Commercial Officer Robert Kyncl posted a statement on Twitter:
An update on YouTube Originals: pic.twitter.com/PixhgZ2yhU
-Robert Kyncl (@rkyncl) January 18, 2022
YouTube is the de facto video site of the web, but Google always tends to chase any new web video trend that pops up. YouTube Shorts is a TikTok clone. YouTube Gaming is a Twitch clone. YouTube Stories was supposed to be a response to Snapchat. YouTube Originals was a thunderbolt for Netflix, which in 2016 turned heads with award-winning shows like Card castle and Orange is the new black. At the time, YouTube Premium at $12 a month started life as “YouTube Red” and its offerings were called YouTube Red Originals.
In the beginning, YouTube put a decidedly YouTube spin on original content and gave big budgets to star content creators on the platform, resulting in shows like Scare PewDiePie, created by the executive producers of The Walking Dead. YouTube Originals eventually pivoted to produce more Hollywood-style content and saw some success in 2018 with The Karate Kid following Cobra Kai.
We’ve seen this story about a million times from Google: after a new initiative doesn’t achieve immediate and incredible success, the company begins to scale back its plans after about two years. At the end of 2018, reports surfaced that YouTube was changing its focus and that YouTube Originals would be ad-supported just like normal YouTube videos. YouTube Originals’ most successful projects have moved on to other video services, with Netflix taking over Cobra Kai for seasons 3 and 4.
Today, YouTube Premium still costs $12 per month. The main advantages are YouTube and YouTube Music ad-free, while the mobile app benefits from background playback and the ability to download content for offline use.