Variety reports that Google’s original video content group, YouTube Originals, is dead. The YouTube division was founded six years ago to make exclusive, original content for the pay-per-month YouTube Premium service. Now, the group is being shuttered, and YouTube’s global head of original content, Susanne Daniels, is leaving the company in March.
Just after the news broke, YouTube Chief Business 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 web’s de facto video site, but Google still tends to chase any hot new web video trend that appears. YouTube Shorts is a clone of TikTok. YouTube Gaming is a clone of Twitch. YouTube Stories was meant to be an answer to Snapchat. YouTube Originals was a swipe at Netflix, which, in 2016, was turning heads with award-winning shows like House of Cards and Orange Is the New Black. Back then, the $12-per-month YouTube Premium started life as “YouTube Red,” and its offerings were called YouTube Red Originals.
At first, YouTube put a decidedly YouTube spin on original content and threw big budgets at the platform’s star content creators, 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 sequel Cobra Kai.
We’ve seen this story about a million times from Google—after a new initiative does not achieve immediate, incredible success, the company starts scaling back its plans after about two years. By the end of 2018, reports surfaced that YouTube was shifting focus and that YouTube Originals would be ad-supported, just like normal YouTube videos. YouTube Originals’ more successful projects moved on to other video services, with Netflix picking up Cobra Kai for seasons 3 and 4.
Today, YouTube Premium is still around for $12 per month. The main perks are ad-free YouTube and YouTube Music, while the mobile app gets background playback and the ability to download content for offline use.