YouTube Shuts Down Original Content to Focus on Supporting YouTubers

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Video content giant YouTube has announced that it is shutting down its original programming division. It will no longer support the creation of new original content, instead focusing on funding existing YouTubers who post exclusively to the platform. 

The announcement comes ahead of YouTube’s longtime global head of original content, Susanne Daniels, departing the company on March 1. “YouTube’s the biggest and best video platform in the world, and what an exciting and tremendous experience I’ve had working to create meaningful programming for global users of all ages and backgrounds,” said Daniels in a statement. “I’m so proud that our YTO [YouTube Originals] content could contribute to the ongoing growth and success of this remarkable platform, and I look forward to new adventures ahead.”

With Daniels’ departure, YouTube’s chief business officer, Robert Kyncl, wrote on Twitter that the platform would switch its focus from backing original content to supporting creators who are already on its platform. He noted that there are over 2 million creators in the YouTube Partner Program, which allows YouTubers to monetize their videos.  

“We’ve paid more than $30 billion to creators, artists, and media companies over the last three years,” he wrote. “However, with rapid growth comes new opportunities; and now, our investments can make a greater impact on even more creators when applied towards other initiatives.” 

Kyncl added that YouTube will continue funding original programs that are part of its Black Voices and YouTube Kids Funds. “We will honor our commitment [to] already contracted shows in progress,” he wrote. 

The history of YouTube’s original programming has been rocky. The department, created in 2016, included the scripted series “Cobra Kai” and the docuseries “Justin Bieber: Seasons.” These series were originally available behind a paywall as part of YouTube Premium. 

In 2018, YouTube announced it would no longer be producing scripted content. Subsequently, several of its shows moved to other platforms: “Cobra Kai” went to Netflix, and “On Becoming a God in Central Florida” went to Showtime. Since then, YouTube has focused on documentaries and live concerts. Last year, Will Smith’s documentary series about his fitness journey, “Best Shape of My Life,” aired exclusively on YouTube. A series featuring Michelle Obama, “Creators for Change,” even won an Emmy Award.

Refocusing on content creators is part of YouTube’s newest strategy: taking a bite out of the influencer market that is currently dominated by TikTok and Instagram. Last year, YouTube announced that it would be paying users to create one-minute videos for its new department, YouTube Shorts (which is currently still in beta mode).  

Though YouTube is exiting the streaming wars, it is going back to its roots as a platform where anyone can create content—and perhaps even get paid for it.

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