YouTube Ramps-Up Efforts to Take on Netflix and Hulu

YouTube is ramping up efforts to gain streaming rights of movies and television shows as it strives to compete with leading online video streaming platforms Netflix, Amazon, Hulu and others.

The Google-owned video sharing site is hoping these films will help turn YouTube into an “arbiter of taste and culture,” and a competitor in both the Oscar and Emmy awards.


YouTube Premium Video Streaming Service


"I want the movies that we're buying to be buzzy and have something provocative to say," YouTube global head of original content Susanne Daniels, a career television executive who joined YouTube in 2015 to lead its original content push, told The Hollywood Reporter. "It's easier to support films the right way when they have a really loud and strong point of view."

Already YouTube has a small but growing slate of films among them a documentary from rapper Warren G, a special starring Katy Perry, and “Super Size Me 2.” The site that took off with its user-generated cat videos now wants to be taken seriously as a premium subscription destination. It made this intention clear with the launch of YouTube Red, the company's $10-a-month streaming service late October 2015.

YouTube Red, which also offers ad-free access to the whole site, went head-to-head with Netflix, Hulu and other streaming services this summer for rights to stream a reboot of Sony TV's classic film “The Karate Kid,” with the original 1984 stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka reprising their roles. People involved expected the new half-hour TV show titled “Cobra Kai” to land at Netflix. But Daniels' aggressive 10-episode straight-to-series offer sealed the deal, despite Netflix’s five-year head start in the streaming business.  

"Netflix is breaking a show every other week," Macchio explained part of the reason YouTube won the bid. "With the passion that YouTube and Susanne Daniels have, this show is not going to get lost. They want it to be that first big show that puts them on the original content map."


YouTube Growing List of Premium TV Shows, Films


YouTube has also scored network TV shows with YouTube stars, including a project with Rudy Mancuso, which has “Pitch Perfect's” Jason Moore attached to direct the pilot. The company also landed the series reboot of “Step Up” after Daniels ran into Lionsgate's film producer Erik Feig at a New Year's Eve party.

"Whatever was in the champagne that night, the call came in Monday, and it was like, 'Let's figure out how to do this,'" recalls Lionsgate Television chairman Kevin Beggs.

Daniels and her 30-person staff in YouTube's Playa Vista office — the company's Hollywood outpost — also piloted the Doug Liman-produced action drama “Impulse” before ordering it to series. The film is based on a novel in Steven Gould's “Jumper” series.

"It's my preference always to do a pilot," Daniels says. "But in this crazy, competitive environment — more competitive than I've ever seen it before, ever — I don't always have a choice."



Could YouTube Subscriptions Push Alienate Creators?


As YouTube diversifies its business to higher-profile projects, there is a risk of alienating its vibrant community of indie creators who came to fame on its platform. However, YouTube execs have on occasions reassured that the world’s biggest video platform won't abandon its homegrown stars.

"We focus on both YouTube native talent and Hollywood talent," YouTube's chief business officer Robert Kyncl is quoted as saying.

YouTube's creators and vloggers are watching the site’s moves keenly as it steps up efforts to adds to its original ad-supported business a growing list of premium subscription-based content in conjunction with dozens of Hollywood production and publishing companies.

"It makes sense for them to do both {ad-supported and subscriptions content}," says Rhett McLaughlin, one half of hosting duo Rhett & Link, who have both a YouTube Red series ('Buddy System') and an ad-supported show ('Good Mythical Morning'). "This is ultimately a battle for people's eyeballs."

See Also: YouTube Limits Creators from Monetizing Videos Until They Reach 10,000 Views.

Alexis Davis is a staff writer for She covers social media and other news affecting digital writers and entrepreneurs.