4. Reward Veterans

In the Space's 6,000 sound stage was the set of Freddie Wong's much-anticipated (and amply crowdfundedVideo Game High School. The second season of VGHS is supposed to be much bigger than the first. Wong wants to explore more characters and different types of games through six half-hour episodes released on YouTube. Given free access to the studio cut down costs and allowed Wong to invest more in overall quality.

“The production design is just over the top in terms of how good it looks,” Wong told me. “We’re really putting together something that we feels competes with television.”

Wong approached YouTube about using the studio to shoot parts of the second season. VGHS is one of the site's snazzier productions, so YouTube eagerly obliged. Indeed, when I visited, the set of VGHS literally covered the walls. “We pretty much utilized every part of the space,” Wong said.

The hallway of the Space, festooned with Video Game High School’s set.
Aymar Jean Christian The hallway of the Space, festooned with Video Game High School’s set.

In return, Wong is helping educate the creator class on the intricacies of post-production (which he already does through his second YouTube channel, which has 1.1 million subscribers). “Everything after the cameras stop rolling, we’re involving creators in that process.”

This year's other resident is Dave Days, a musician who's been on the site for years. Days, who released his latest album last month, is shooting an ambitious series called "Writing Room," which pairs 10 YouTube musicians with 10 songwriters to create a series of original songs and music videos. A teaser came out last week.

"I saw one of the episodes so far and it looks really awesome,” Days said in an interview. “We definitely want to do more. I want to keep [YouTube] music-based.”

But Is Anyone Making Money?

Creators who have access to the Space seem happy to have some support from Google. But can being creator-friendly help YouTube bring in big advertisers, which, ultimately is the point?

While he's been working for Google, Liam Collins has tried to make that very point.

"It’s been great to see the pendulum shift...We have to be investing in our partners in order to be successful ourselves in the long term."

Google could even be investing more. The company doesn't officially comment on the cost of the space, but it's been reported at around $25 million. That's only a fraction of the advances it gave to channels for original content support, and as snazzy as it is, it wouldn't cost much more to increase support staff for new creators, or include more programs to bring a greater diversity of talent. 

Of course, YouTube Space is new, so it remains to be seen whether it will expand and flourish, or wither and die under competition from Netflix, Amazon and Hulu, who are working with established Hollywood talent.

For now, YouTube is off to a respectable, if modest, start.