By Sahil Patel
YouTube and DreamWorks Animation are deep in development on a new daily web series called “YouTube Nation,” which could represent YouTube’s first traditional production deal.
Industry sources suggest to VideoInk that “YouTube Nation,” which will cover everything from trending videos to pop culture stories, current events, and political issues, as well as online personalities who are on the rise, is a “very big deal” for YouTube. This is because we are told that “YouTube Nation” is closer to a co-production relationship than anything YouTube has been involved with to date.
One source went as far as to say this is a “pet project” for YouTube content chief Robert Kyncl and DreamWorks CEO Jeffrey Katzenberg. Kyncl, if you remember, was the man who introduced Katzenberg to AwesomenessTV founder Brian Robbins, paving the way for DreamWorks to acquire the teen-focused YouTube network in late April (and just in time for a big announcement at YouTube’s Brandcast).*
Up until now, YouTube, through its grant and partner programs, has focused on providing funding or production support to creators on the site. In both cases, the company has chosen to be hands-off when it comes to the actual production of content. With “YouTube Nation,” the company is said to be putting all of its resources behind the show, including opening up access to enterprise-level data (in a way that no current partner has), in addition to actively developing the show and offering access to Space LA. And while not confirmed, it’s also likely that a high-profile project like this will receive an abundance of marketing support.
YouTube and DreamWorks are currently testing out different formats at YouTube Space LA and have been casting a wide net to audition web- and video-savvy personalities for the hosting gig. Some of the requirements for the host include having a “significant online presence” and “an active social media following,” though the producers are not looking for “red carpet, TV entertainment-style hosts,” per directions in the casting call materials. As far as we know, no host has been selected yet. It’s also not clear if the producers are looking for multiple hosts/personalities.
So far, we are unable to confirm as to whether the show will be live or on-demand. According to multiple sources with knowledge of the plans, “YouTube Nation” will air five days a week. It is billed by some as a “Daily Show” for the web video generation with a heavy focus on curation. The hope is to launch the show later this year — one source claims it will be in November, while casting call materials disclosed to us indicate a fall premiere.
The development of “YouTube Nation” leads to some obvious questions about what this means for other creators producing similar formats on the site — creators/channels like Ray William Johnson, SourceFed, and What’s Trending. “YouTube Nation,” as it’s currently imagined, would be a major competitor. To be fair, some of these creators already have a well-established audience as well as content partnerships that exist beyond the YouTube platform. So “YouTube Nation” is not necessarily the death sentence that some might perceive it to be. But if YouTube is indeed looking to expand beyond its current role as a financier of content, then it has the potential to quickly become the biggest kid on the block across various content types.
Here’s something else: If YouTube decides to produce more content beyond “YouTube Nation,” and bring in YouTube stars to host and/or make that content, then those off-YouTube strategies MCNs are consistently talking about will require a greater sense of urgency.
YouTube declined to comment for this story.
* AwesomenessTV is not involved with this project, it appears to be strictly a DreamWorks or DreamWorks/YouTube production.