YouTube on Hunt to License TV Shows and Movies for Subscription Service

Video site seeks streaming rights from Hollywood studios, according to a Wall Street Journal report

Last Updated: December 3, 2015 @ 6:33 AM

YouTube has kicked off a shopping spree for top-shelf content.

The massive online video site is wooing Hollywood studios and production companies for rights to stream traditional TV shows and movies, according to a Wall Street Journal report published Wednesday.

The strategy creates a new, well-funded bidder for premium streaming rights, bringing YouTube in direct competition with online subscription video giants Netflix and Amazon. That intensified demand for Hollywood content bodes well for climbing licensing fees, and YouTube will likely be asked to pay a premium for blue-chip content to offset its public perception as a low-quality home to silly clips and cat videos.

The company, owned by Alphabet’s Google, wants the content as a new subscriber lure to YouTube Red, the site’s ad-free, $10-a-month service launched in October. Although YouTube has reportedly been in contact with some Hollywood studios and production companies, its pursuit appears to be in the early stages. According to anonymous sources cited in the report, executives from at least one major Hollywood studio have not yet been contacted.

YouTube didn’t immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

The strategy is an about-face for YouTube Red. When the company unveiled its subscription arm in October, chief business officer Robert Kyncl said that rather than wooing traditional stars to make films and series, it planned to focus on talent who rose to prominence on its site — those so-called “YouTube stars” like Felix Kjellberg, known by his handle Pewdiepie, and Lilly Singh, who goes by IISuperwomanII.

That contrasts with online subscription video rivals Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, which have cast edgy originals with traditional stars to quickly ramp up critical accolades and improve popular awareness.

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