YouTube Originals doused: Creators remain key

YouTube has effectively brought its Originals to an end, the company has announced. Though YouTube Originals won't be entirely eliminated, the company has revealed that it'll reduce its funding for this kind of programming to only two categories: YouTube Kids and Black Voices. That may not be a big deal going forward, however, as YouTube Shorts has ushered in a new era of creator-generated content for the platform.

YouTube Originals launched in 2016 as premium content for paying users. The company did see some success with this initiative and Cobra Kai was the biggest hit to come from YouTube's original programming slate — the series has since moved off the YouTube platform and over to Netflix, where it has received additional seasons as a Netflix Original.

Despite that, YouTube Originals ultimately failed to compete with major players in the market, something that may have been due, in part, to YouTube's premium paywall. The company addressed the issue by announcing in 2019 that it would make its original programming free for all users to stream, but the move may have come too late.

The business model change came only months after rumors began circulating about YouTube's growing disinterest in original content (via Bloomberg). Fast-forward a few years and it seems the company is ready to officially end things with that aspect of its business, instead shifting focus to ad-supported creator content.

YouTube's Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl announced the big change in a statement published on Twitter, where he explained the company will "reduce" its original programming and only fund YouTube Kids and Black Voices going forward. The revelation comes alongside the news that YouTube's head of original content Susanne Daniels will officially leave the company in March, which Kyncl acknowledged in his statement.

As rumored years ago, YouTube will shift its focus to its ad-supported content, and that, too, is no surprise. In August 2021, the company broadly launched the YouTube Shorts Fund, which earmarked $100 million for creators who published original content through the platform's short-form video portal.

The Shorts Funds joins YouTube's wider Partners Program, which enables creators who meet certain minimum requirements to earn a portion of revenue from the advertisements displayed on their videos. In his statement, Kyncl noted there are more than 2 million creators participating in the YouTube Partner Program, also stating, "Our creator community has never been more successful."

More than $30 billion has been paid out to these creators over the last three years — around the same time frame in which YouTube backed off its original programming strategy. He goes on to note the more narrowly focused initiatives YouTube is funding, including its Live Shopping, Black Voices Fund, and the aforementioned Shorts Fund.

All of these factors, Kyncl said, "contributed to our decision to reduce our YouTube Originals slate." The decision doesn't extend to shows for which YouTube already has contracts in place, but going forward, users can expect YouTube to heavily revolve around its creator-generated content.