YouTube CEOSusan Wojcicki’s 2016 VidCon keynote delivered a simple message: If you’ve felt marginalized and seek community, come to us.
“YouTube gives people of any race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, disability, or interest a place to come together and a place to belong,” she said, emphasizing the importance of community to YouTube’s success. “When people talk about community, especially when they’re here at VidCon, the first thing they often mention are the screaming fans… But what I hope you take away when you visit VidCon isn’t just the enthusiasm, it’s the sense of belonging that exists here.”
To present YouTube’s programming slate, Wojcicki yielded the stage to Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s Global Head of Original Content, who outlined the four major projects upcoming from YouTube Red, the company’s original content subscription service, and eight new series in development. The centerpiece is a partnership with Lionsgate to develop YouTube Red’s’s first drama series, an episodic adaptation of the “Step Up” film franchise.
Other series being developed for Red include a program from Michael Stevens (“Vsauce”) about the science of human nature; an animated series about the mysteries of the undead starring s Evan Fong (“VanossGaming”), Adam Montoya (“SeaNanners”), and Scott Robinson (“Mr. Sark”); and “Buddy System,” a scripted comedy from Rhett & Link.
In addition, YouTube is teaming with comedy duo Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox, aka Smosh, to produce a follow-up feature to “Smosh: The Movie;” a tour film with UK comedy stars Dan and Phil. YouTube also acquired “Vlogumentary,” produced by Morgan Spurlock and financed by Indiegogo.
“More millennials tune into YouTube on mobile alone during primetime than any cable or broadcast TV network,” said Wojcicki. “It’s clear digital media and traditional linear media are blending together. The platforms of the future need to put the desires of the user and the viewer first.”
Wojcicki also announced three major changes to the way comments will function on the site — key elements for anyone who’s been frustrated by the internet trolls who can easily hijack a video’s comments section. Creators will be able to pin a featured comment at the top of the section, anyone will be able to use GIFs in comments, and channel owners will be able to delegate comment moderation to certain trusted fans.
Wojcicki proudly listed YouTubers who had successfully crossed over into television and film projects, like Issa Rae (HBO’s forthcoming “Insecure”), Flula Borg (“Pitch Perfect”), and Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ef-Girlfriend”). However, her praise for YouTube’s ratings were vaguer, saying only that YouTube Red’s numbers “rival similar cable shows.”
Wojcicki wrapped up her presentation by marking the upcoming 49th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and reminding the audience that the tragic shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando reflects the danger LGBTQ people live with to this day. YouTube has always been a place where LGBTQ people could express themselves freely, and it will continue to be so, Wojcicki promised.
The talk concluded with a video tribute to the site’s LGBTQ talent. That’s unlikely to happen at a Google keynote.