- YouTube is working to develop "choose-your-own-adventure" programming and live specials, according to Bloomberg. A new unit has been formed for the push that is being headed by Ben Relles, an eight-year YouTube veteran who previously oversaw unscripted programming.
- Previously, YouTube has experimented with interactive ads, but it is now restructuring its programming staff for this new, resource-intensive initiative.
- While YouTube reportedly is scaling back original programming in favor of ad-supported content, the company is still scheduled to present a slate of original programming at the IAB 2019 Newfronts on May 2.
YouTube's latest pivot on digital video demonstrates how the Google-owned platform has struggled to grow beyond user- and brand-generated content as it attempts to compete with Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and others. As Bloomberg notes, the interactive format could set it apart from its competitors, garnering it more viewers and ad dollars.
The move follows Netflix's forays into interactive content, most notably last year's "Black Mirror: Bandersnatch," which took interactive marketing to new a level. However, because Netflix is subscription-based and doesn't run advertising on its platform, YouTube's choose-your-own-adventure programming could offer more opportunities for brands. Choose-your-own-adventure programming, by its nature, requires viewers to be deeply engaged, which could help advertisers drive key performance indicators for ads within such content. Conversely, the annoyance level of an ad that interrupts viewers who have a vested interest in the programming's progress could result in a negative association. More research will need to be done on the still-new format. Previously, Walmart, which has experimented with ad-supported video and shoppable video ads on its Vudu platform, announced a joint venture with Eko to create interactive content.
The decision by YouTube to try out choose-your-own-adventure programming is the latest in a long line of pivots on original programming for the platform. The company has often tweaked the advertising, subscription and distribution model for its YouTube Premium service, which was previously known as YouTube Red. YouTube last year began airing a slate of Hollywood films, such as "Rocky" and "The Terminator," as free, ad-supported videos.
Time will tell if Relles and his team will be able to turn interactive programming into a traffic-driver for the platform, which surpassed Facebook as the second-most visited website by U.S. visitors and has seen its ad revenue grow 11% year-over-year. YouTube was ranked the "most intimate brand" among millennials, according to the MBLM Brand Intimacy 2019 Study. However, changes to its platform and programming could threaten or change that relationship.