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YouTube will make its first big-budget TV series

YouTube Red, Google's paid streaming service, has purchased Step Up, the platform's first big-budget television series. The purchase was announced Thursday during YouTube's keynote presentation at Vidcon, above, in Anaheim.
(Mark Boster/ Los Angeles Times)

YouTube is taking a bold step into major television production.

Dance drama TV series “Step Up,” based on the film franchise of the same name starring Channing Tatum, will be coming to YouTube Red, Google’s paid streaming service.

The purchase was announced during YouTube’s keynote presentation at Vidcon on Thursday evening.

Although YouTube has supported several shows starring some of its popular content creators in the past, “Step Up” is the platform’s first big-budget series, underscoring its ambitions to be a player in the TV business.

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Tatum is set to return as executive producer. Lionsgate, which produced two of the franchise’s films, will deliver the 10-episode series. Financial terms were not disclosed.

During the keynote, Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s global head of original content, expressed optimism about the platform’s upcoming paid content.

“What I hope this slate demonstrates is our openness to new ideas, our excitement to try new things you won’t see anywhere else, and our commitment to original programming for the long haul,” Daniels said.

Throughout its keynote, YouTube outlined several goals to broaden the website into an all-purpose entertainment destination. In addition to “Step Up,” the company revealed five other new YouTube Red projects and several renewals, all of which will feature popular YouTubers, including Pewdiepie and Smosh.

“We’ve seen some fantastic engagement with our very first slate of YouTube originals,” Daniels said.

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The announcements come at a time when burgeoning streaming services are working hard to retain paying fans. YouTube, Netflix, Amazon.com and Hulu are engaged in an expensive battle to sign up subscribers to their online video services, with showy exclusives like the new “Step Up” series viewed as a crucial selling point.

Gaining subscribers is especially important for YouTube, the only service to have focused solely on ad revenue until recently.

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Ads alone haven’t been enough for YouTube to generate profit despite its more than 1 billion viewers, according to financial analysts. They remain upbeat about YouTube because of soaring ad sales, with estimated revenue reaching $7 billion last year.

But some analysts have warned that the subscriber push may ultimately underwhelm as the dominant perception of YouTube remains that it’s a hub for free videos.

Alphabet Inc., which controls YouTube through its Google unit, hasn’t said how many subscribers Red has attracted since launching last October.

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