The greatest lesson from Youtube is that even a company as rich and smart as Google can absolutely still fail on an incredible level. The world’s largest video site has been a comedy of errors in how not to build a brand, community, or anything else besides ads. Despite them not having to do any of the hard creative legwork that makes Youtube so appealing to people, they’ve never become a big time Peak TV player like Amazon or Netflix, despite having a few years head start in the video realm. Now it looks like they’re biting the bullet, as longer form, more high minded shows will no longer be produced for Youtube.
Bloomberg reports that Youtube is no longer shopping around Hollywood for scripted shows, ones that usually cost a lot of moolah, dedication, and direction. Youtube’s platform for scripted shows, Youtube Red, has never really taken off for consumers, mostly for good reason. I’ve driven by countless billboards in LA advertising Youtube Red shows and have never once heard anyone know they existed, let alone talk about them. The best part of this news for those 4 people that do watch Youtube shows is they will now be free to view instead of having to pay for their premium service. Producer Susanne Daniels, who was brought in to help build the platform’s catalogue quality in 2015, is still sticking around to oversee the changes, but what shows will stick around and how they will be shown is still up in the air.
Youtube has shown time and time again they don’t really know what makes the platform so successful. There’s some truly incredible and hilarious content being produced every single hour, but much of it isn’t suited to what would be known as a television show. Each Youtuber’s format can be so unique to themselves (or not) that trying to fit it into a more rigid television format can cause a creator to lose some of that spark of ingenuity.
Also important is how fans and creators interact on the platform, which is vastly different than an actor/fan relationship. While still playing a persona and “acting” in a way, Youtube can still feel more intimate than a television show. You see these people in their homes, on their beds, sitting on a couch playing games just like you would. That semi-illusion of intimacy has always been Youtube’s greatest strength, so when you introduce a writing team or really outside influence of any kind, many fans won’t be fooled by this “inauthentic” representation of who they watch. You don’t (or shouldn’t) go to Youtube to watch Kevin Hart, Netflix already has that covered. It’s doubtful there will be a swing shift back to the creator’s of Youtube with this move as there are still shows on the way, but maybe this is the first acknowledgement that Youtube shouldn’t try to be an also-ran Hollywood studio and instead focus on what makes them the most popular video site on the planet. Or maybe they’ll pivot to be runner-up to Spotify instead.