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YouTube Finally Launches Original Programming!

Posted by cfeehan on February 19, 2016

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YouTube is the most popular video-sharing site on the web. So you may ask, why haven’t they capitalized on their popularity and put out accessible, full-length movies in order to compete with the big players in streaming? Your question can now be answered with a simple “oh, but they have”.

The site has just launched their first batch of YouTube Originals – including one series and three movies – on February 10th. They released them on their YouTube Red channel, which requires a paid subscription to access. 

Note About Access

Unfortunately, this really cool news comes along with some not-so-great aspects. The full YouTube Red service, where customers have access to all YouTube Red Originals as soon as they’re released, as well as a ton of other features like a free Google Play Music subscription, is not yet available in Canada, although YouTube is working on expanding their availability. Despite this, you still have the option to purchase select movies, series, and TV shows, including YouTube Red Original Series.

Here’s a picture of what the purchase screen looks like under the link for PewDiePie’s first episode in his web series:

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If you’re viewing from Canada, all you have to do is click the blue button, then follow the prompts to pay. Episodes of the series cost $2.49 each and movies cost $14.99.

A Little Bit About the New Originals

Scare PewDiePie

We’ll start off with the only web series that came out of the launch on February 10th, then work our way up to the movies. So, let’s talk PewDiePie. If you haven’t heard this name before, I’d be surprised, but that’s probably because I’m part of the generation that grew up on the internet. PewDiePie, whose real name is Felix Kjellberg, is a 26-year-old Swedish YouTuber best known for his Let’s Play videos, in which he produces comedic commentary while playing video games for his audience to watch. I feel that it’s necessary to mention that he has 42,273,998 subscribers, which is by far the most that anyone on YouTube has. He’s worth approximately $60 million, so I’d say he’s rich enough without the addition of this new series but hey, people like watching him, so they might as well give the people what they want.

This new series, called Scare PewDiePie, appears to feature PewDiePie experiencing “horror game” situations in real life, where the object is to freak him out and elicit hilarious reactions from him. The trailers look pretty funny, and overall I think he’s a humorous guy, so I might have to give an episode a try.

Click here to view the trailer for the first episode as well as access the link where you can purchase the full-length episode for $2.49.

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A Trip to Unicorn Island

Contrary to what the name suggests, this movie is not an animated film made for 6-year-old girls. It’s a documentary on the life of Lilly Singh, a popular YouTube star from Scarborough, Ontario! Canada, represent!

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Lilly posts funny videos online, but it doesn’t stop there – she’s also a rapper and motivational speaker, and this documentary follows her experiences in these areas as well as her battle with depression. This looks like an interesting documentary, especially to a fellow Canadian. Check out the trailer here.

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Dance Camp

This movie looks like a fun film for pre-teens and maybe teens who are huge YouTube star fans. It gives off total “Camp Rock” vibes, if you’re familiar with that movie – do you remember the Jonas Brothers? I certainly do. I may or may not have attended a “Camp Rock” party at a friend’s house during my early teen years, so I likely would have enjoyed Dance Camp back then as well. It’s a musical that apparently features a wide variety of YouTube stars, so I’d definitely recommend checking out the trailer to see if you recognize any of them!

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Lazer Team

Finally, we have the movie Lazer Team, which is a sci-fi comedy starring popular YouTube stars as well as established actors, such as Alan Ritchson from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Hunger Games. The movie seems to be about aliens and male bonding, which could be an entertaining combination. Watch the trailer here to find out more and purchase the movie if you so choose!

Finally, if you desire to buy all of the movies and series episodes at once, follow this link.

YouTube Red – What’s the Advantage?

Now, to get down to the logistics. Why would someone – YouTube star or not – want to put out a movie on YouTube?

YouTube offers a very creator-centered environment

  • YouTube stars can keep their content close to their original fan base. His fans are already on YouTube, so why not just host his content there?

YouTube has a huge range of content and style

  • The Originals provide a way to keep that same YouTube quirkiness while adding in the higher production value that comes with financial support
  • One amazing side effect of YouTube showcasing its range is that there is no standardized length format for its videos. For example, a TV show with a specified time slot would have to conform to fit time regulations, but on YouTube, anything goes. This could change the way shows are made, and even change the creative process in general.

YouTube gives artists, production companies and even fans the chance to focus on exactly what they want: YouTube stars.

  • And the more they can fit into one film, the better. This was the idea with Dance Camp, where multiple YouTube stars have cameos that only die-hard fans will fully appreciate.

Concerns

YouTube is banking on YouTube Red being successful, and people being really into these new movies and series. If this does not happen, YouTube stars may break their loyalties to the platform, YouTube fans may feel betrayed by the high production value of the videos, and may even be offended due to the suggestion that video-sharing would no longer be free.

YouTube Stars Breaking Away from the Platform

  • YouTube Red is a way to ensure that the platform doesn’t lose its stars to traditional film production companies for higher pay or a better deal. This is especially relevant since some of the stars mentioned above are appearing more in the public eye – Lilly Singh has appeared on Jimmy Fallon, while PewDiePie has appeared on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, and word of his high earnings spread across the internet like wildfire. If YouTube Red fails, the more high-profile stars may begin to get outside offers, which could lead to breaking their ties with YouTube.

Users Missing Out on the Good Old-Fashioned “YouTube Experience”

  • These new Originals are high-quality, big-budget productions, unlike the typical, hand-held or selfie-style filming you’d expect from these famous YouTubers. Some fans are concerned that they’re trading in the personal feeling they get from connecting with one person (the YouTube star) through an unscripted dialogue on their channels for higher production value in these newer movies and series. I’m sure the die-hard PewDiePie fans won’t care whether it’s scripted or dramatized or not, they’re probably just there for a laugh and to see Pewds’ personality shine, but there will be exceptions. Will YouTube Originals ruin the low-budget charm that YouTube had in the first place? We’ll have to wait and see.

Users Being Unwilling to Pay the Subscription Fee

  • Finally, as you may be able to see in the comments sections of some of the trailers for the Originals, the commentary is almost exclusively consisting of requests to post a pirated version of the series on YouTube, comments about torrenting the show online, or finding otherwise illegal means of viewing it instead of paying the $9.99 monthly fee to access it. For now, it looks like YouTube Red’s fate rests on the willingness of fans to actually pay the subscription fee, which is a major make-or-break factor.

As you can see, YouTube Red seems as though it would cultivate increased creativity and opportunities for YouTube stars, but may cause concern among its users. I guess only time and view-counts will tell if this is a Youtube hit or miss. 

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Caitlin Feehan, Blogger & Editor


Converse have been my footwear of choice for the past 9 years, I’m convinced that all doors and sidewalks are conspiring against me, and I enjoy sticking my head out of the passenger window on long car rides.