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YouTube pulls the plug on its Originals division as partner programme for ad-revenue sharing takes off

By opting out of the OTT content race, the platform may face reduced burdens in complying with the IT Rules.

YouTube has announced that it will be cutting back significantly on its Originals slate, according to a tweet put out by YouTube’s Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl. He added that the video streaming service will only be funding programmes that are part of their Black Voices and YouTube Kids Funds, the statement added.

The statement clarified that the platform will meet its commitments for shows which have already been contracted by it.

YouTube Originals was conceived in 2016 in a bid to ride the wave of OTT streaming. It was a division within YouTube dedicated to new programming headed by Susanne Daniels. It produced content which spanned several genres like scripted series, educational videos, and music & celebrity programming.

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The move is a consequential one as the division reportedly struggled to stand out in a crowded OTT market, as per The Verge. YouTube is primarily an intermediary but the platform would have been in a fix over Originals under the new IT Rules, 2021 in India as it would be liable for the division’s content.

Why is YouTube pulling the plug on Originals?

Robert Kyncl said that the company had to reckon with the departure of Susanne Dainels who will be gone by March 1.

“…now our investments can make a greater impact on even more creators when applied towards other initiatives, like our Creator Shorts Fund, Black Voices Fund, and Live Shopping programming to name a few,” Kyncl reasoned in his Twitter post.

It made several pivots in its brief stint but the division’s contribution to YouTube remained a mystery, The Verge said in its report.  For example, it began with scripted shows and movies focused on creators, like the comedy-thriller series Scare PewDiePie. YouTube then moved away from its slate of scripted TV series and movies in 2018, according to Variety.

Several of its projects moved to other outlets, Variety reported:

  • “Cobra Kai” to Netflix;
  • “On Becoming a God In Central Florida” was nabbed by Showtime;
  • “Step Up” was lapped up by Starz.

The company then focused more towards ad-supported content featuring celebrities like Katy Perry and Kevin Hart, free for users to access without a subscription, the news website added.

YouTube’s compliance with IT Rules, 2021

The video-sharing platform has had to deal with additional compliance requirements under the IT Rules, 2021 for significant social media intermediaries. The rules also impose compliance requirements upon publishing platforms like  digital news channels and OTT platforms.

Blocking channels under emergency provisions: The video-sharing platform had to block 20 channels following the directions of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting who invoked the emergency provisions available in the IT Rules 2021, in December last year. The provisions allow the government to order the complete banning of certain online content under Rule 16 of the rules, without giving the intermediary or publishers of such content a chance to be heard.

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Furnish details to I&B ministry: YouTube channels publishing news or current affairs content will have to furnish their details to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting (MIB), the Google-owned platform said in its updated Terms and Conditions that went into effect from January 2022.

In an email to Google users, YouTube said that under Rule 5 of the Information Technology (Intermediary Guidelines and Digital Media Ethics Code Rules, 2021) Rules, 2021 “if you are a publisher of news or current affairs content, you are required to furnish the details of your accounts on YouTube to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Government of India”.

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I cover several beats such as Crypto, Telecom, and OTT at MediaNama. I can be found loitering at my local theatre when I am off work consuming movies by the dozen.

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.



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