YouTube to launch shows with Ellen DeGeneres and other stars

Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres.
Talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres.PHOTO: WALT DISNEY

NEW YORK • YouTube plans to produce six original series that will be available for free, in a big expansion of the Google-owned company's programming and efforts to attract advertisers.

Comedian Kevin Hart, talk-show host Ellen DeGeneres and comedy duo Rhett & Link are producing unscripted shows that will debut this year.

Google will also increase its spending on YouTube Red, a paid video and music streaming service launched in October 2015.

The plans mark a shift for Google, which has typically treated its huge video library as a Web free-for-all rather than a home for TV shows. 

But as more digital rivals venture into high-quality programming, YouTube is feeling pressure to respond.

It will fund more than 40 original shows and movies next year, spending hundreds of millions of dollars, according to a person familiar with the plans.

YouTube is betting high-profile stars will attract more advertisers, such as Johnson & Johnson, which is sponsoring Best.Cover.Ever, a music competition from Ryan Seacrest that is scheduled for later this year.

"We're working with YouTube stars and big celebrities that we know have global appeal, advertiser appeal," said Ms Susanne Daniels, YouTube's head of original content.

YouTube's mission at the annual Newfronts presentations in New York, where online companies are introducing their initiatives this week, is to convince marketers to shift more advertising money to the Web.

Original programming is front and centre, with YouTube pitching premium shows that it says merit big commitments from sponsors.

Those efforts got more complicated last month when advertisers discovered that some of their spots appeared next to extremist videos.

YouTube adopted new rules and said the scandal had minimal impact on sales.

"The two biggest players in the Newfronts are YouTube and Hulu (video on demand service), yet neither tells you exactly where your ad ran," said Mr Ben Winkler, chief investment officer of OMD USA, part of the Omnicom Group advertising company.

"I expect YouTube will be the first to blink."

DeGeneres, who hosts one of the most popular talk shows on television, will take viewers behind the scenes of her programme.

Hart will try a trendy workout routine every week, alongside celebrity guests, in Kevin Hart: What The Fit?

The show will debut on his Laugh Out Loud Network on YouTube.

YouTube also will help Rhett & Link expand their already popular Good Mythical Morning show to create a series that feels every bit as grand as TV talk shows.

While most recent episodes feature the two hosts at a desk, the revamped version, in its 11th season, will include more guests, challenges and correspondents.

"We want to be seen as legit in ways by people who don't see Internet shows as legit," said Rhett, whose real name is Rhett James McLaughlin.

"But the way to do that is not to imitate late-night TV shows."

YouTube decided to fund adsupported programmes more than a year ago after executives saw a study on the growing number of TV shows being produced.

Most of the new shows appear on premium services with no ads. That created an opening.

"We're turning the infrastructure we've built for original programming into supporting our biggest partners,'' said Mr Robert Kyncl, YouTube's chief business officer.

"Nobody can release originals on a global basis with the scale we have in advertising.''

Google reported more than US$21 billion (S$29.5 billion) in ad sales in the first quarter - more than the US TV industry.

The funding of shows with ads will not reduce YouTube's commitment to the US$9.99-a-month Red, which does not have ads.

The company backed almost 30 programmes on Red last year and plans to spend more this year and next.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 06, 2017, with the headline 'YouTube to launch shows with Ellen DeGeneres and other stars'. Print Edition | Subscribe