Google’s YouTube will release the first batch of shows from a new original programming drive on Feb. 10, offering three movies and an adventure series designed to lure customers to its $9.99-a-month subscription service.
The programs, which YouTube funded, include “Scare PewDiePie,” a series with the Swedish gaming sensation Felix “PewDiePie” Kjellberg and “A Trip to Unicorn Island,” a tour documentary featuring online star Lilly Singh, the company said in a blog post. All of the programs will be available exclusively in the U.S. to subscribers of YouTube Red, the paid version of the video site, and will be available for purchase outside the U.S.
With YouTube Red, the video-streaming site owned by Alphabet Inc.’s Google is testing whether its homegrown stars, backed by bigger production budgets, can persuade their millions of young fans to pay for programming. Like Netflix Inc. and Amazon.com Inc., YouTube is using original programming to entice potential subscribers.
“The diverse, dynamic creators behind these films have already built massive audiences on YouTube, rivaling many cable shows,’’ Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content, wrote in a blog post. “With YouTube Red Originals, we want to help them tell bigger and bolder stories that delight you, their fans.’’
Original programs are one of several features that YouTube is using to develop its paid service, which combines Google’s music subscriptions with entertainment, news and music videos. Subscribers can watch YouTube clips without advertising, and listen to videos or music in the background while using other applications on their phone.
YouTube previously invested hundreds of millions of dollars in channels intended to bring more original programming to its site. Madonna, Sofia Vergara and Ashton Kutcher were all involved in channels that received funding.
The company’s movie lineup starting Feb. 10 will also include “Dance Camp,” a feature-length film from Awesomeness TV, a new media division of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc. It’s also releasing “Lazer Team,” an action-comedy from Rooster Teeth and Fullscreen Films that’s also in theaters. “Scare PewDiePie” is from the creator and executive producers of “The Walking Dead.”
PewDiePie’s YouTube channel has close to 42 million subscribers while Singh has almost 8 million.