YouTube Gets Into Original Feature Films

Not content to let Amazon and Netflix rule the original feature film distribution conversation, YouTube has announced the premiere dates – tomorrow, 2/10 – for the first batch of original productions coming to its YouTube Red paid service next week. The titles include a documentary, an action series and two narrative features. Since they’re more in line with what I do here I’m going to focus on the latter category, with trailers via IndieWire.

Dance Camp

Laser Team

The trailers are cute enough. Dance Camp seems like something akin to what you’d see on Disney Channel with a story of being true to yourself and finding your passion.. And Laser Team looks like a sci-fi comedy in the vein of The Watch or Pixels, with a bunch of guys taking on some sort of alien threat.

AwesomenessTV has been heavily promoting Dance Camp on its Twitter profile along with all the other programming and personalities it has under its umbrella. RoosterTeeth, the team behind Laser Team, has been doing likewise.


While to some extent this does fit into the overall narrative of original movies debuting on streaming services – a market YouTube very much wants to play in but has so far been unsuccessful in breaking into – these examples show something more specific: It appears YouTube thinks there’s more value in debuting original movies that fit in with its overall brand. Where Netflix and Amazon are anxious for the kind of movies that otherwise would have gone to the multiplex these first steps by YouTube are basically extended versions of the videos you’d find there anyway. Or at least they’re from people who already have big followings on YouTube, meaning they’re already fluent in how to use that platform to promote their work.

That, in some regards, could give YouTube an interesting edge in this field. Netflix and Amazon don’t have native users who can then leverage the platform for long-form content. There isn’t a community of creators there like YouTube has. That means it has a direct channel to all kinds of original IP that can create a strong point of differentiation between it and the other players in the market.

Now it just remains to be see if the audience that’s been loving the free content from these creators will shell out for a YouTube Red subscription to see premium content from the creators they already follow. It all comes down to brand loyalty, I suppose.  

By Chris Thilk

Chris Thilk is a freelance writer and content strategist with over 15 years of experience in online strategy and content marketing. He lives in the Chicago suburbs.