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Aside from the Cobra Kai series, YouTube original programming hasn’t garnered much streaming traction, as the platform tries to compete with Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Now, that battle is reportedly ending for YouTube Premium.
According to Bloomberg, YouTube has stopped accepting pitches for Hollywood-quality programming, while the sci-fi series Origin and Overthinking With Kat & June have been canceled and are being forced to find other outlets for distribution.
Since competing with the likes of Netflix and Amazon costs billions of dollars per year, Bloomberg wrote that the site has determined that investing in music and gaming is a better idea even though YouTube reportedly earned more than $15 billion in advertising revenue in 2018.
In November, it was reported that YouTube—which started its premium service, originally called YouTube Red, in 2015—would make most of its original programming free and that it would decrease the number of original scripted shows beginning in 2020. The latest news further cements the idea that YouTube has determined it won’t—or can’t—compete with the most popular streaming services.
Plus, Apple is set to announce on Monday its own video service with original programming.
“While it’s strangely flattering to be the topic of Hollywood gossip, please know I am committed to YouTube and can’t wait to unveil our robust slate of new and returning originals,” Susanne Daniels, the head of YouTube’s original productions, told Bloomberg.
YouTube has had some successes with its originals.
Cobra Kai, which is a reboot of the Karate Kid franchise, has won universal praise, and its second season will be unveiled next month. (Martin Kove, who continues his role as Sensei John Kreese told the Daily Dot he had longings for what his character would accomplish in a not-yet-announced third season.) Though YouTube has created other well-received series like the Anna Akana-led Youth and Consequences and the LeBron James-produced Best Shot documentary, not many series have lasted more than a single season.
YouTube also continues to lean on its most popular (and, in some cases, controversial) creators like Logan Paul and Poppy to draw in viewers who are willing to pay $12 per month for the premium service. While those decisions are sure to make YouTube fans happy, it’s unclear if that kind of home-grown content would be a draw for those who aren’t as familiar with YouTube culture.
One analyst didn’t seem surprised that YouTube is ceding ground.
“In some ways, they never really went all-in on the strategy,” Anthony DiClemente, a research analyst at Evercore ISI, told Bloomberg. “That’s like bringing a butter knife to a gun fight.”
Josh Katzowitz is a staff writer at the Daily Dot specializing in YouTube and boxing. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. A longtime sports writer, he's covered the NFL for CBSSports.com and boxing for Forbes. His work has been noted twice in the Best American Sports Writing book series.