YouTube is planning a new slate of ad-supported original programming to start this year, the company announced at the NewFronts conference in New York today. The shows, which will be free to view and not part of the company’s YouTube Red subscription service, are part of a broader push from the Google-owned video site to establish itself as a place for premium programming alongside Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon.
In the process, YouTube hopes it will attract premium advertising as well, helping it shed a somewhat tarnished image that, as of late, has been associated with advertiser boycotts over hate videos and other questionable user-uploaded content.
As part of its push into more original programming, YouTube has signed up comedian Kevin Hart and TV host Ellen DeGeneres as its first two high-profile entertainers. At the NewFronts conference in New York this evening, Hart said he’s linking up with YouTube to get closer to his fans. “If you know me, if you follow me, you know that I embrace social media on a very high level,” Hart told the crowd. He also mentioned that, on his most recent Europe tour, fans kept mentioning YouTube as a source of discovery. “That’s how I got my international fan base.”
Hart’s show, “Kevin Hart: What the Fit?,” will be a workout-focused program distributed through his own YouTube channel, Laugh Out Loud Network. DeGeneres, on the other hand, will use her show to give fans backstage looks at the making of her talkshow.
Katy Perry and Demi Lovato also announced new behind-the-scenes shows with YouTube at NewFronts, while TV and radio personality Ryan Seacrest is confirmed to be producing a music competition, “Best.Cover.Ever,” to debut on the site later this year. Beyond traditional celebrities, YouTube is leaning on its existing online talent with two shows , one from internet comedy dup Rhett & Link and another from high-speed camera effects specialists The Slow Mo Guys.
According to Bloomberg, YouTube will invest hundreds of millions of dollars over the next year to produce more than 40 new original shows and further build out its YouTube Red service.