YouTube's first original programs arrive

The company is jumping into the same arena where Netflix, Amazon and Hulu are doing battle.

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YouTube is getting into the original programming game, mining its homegrown stars.

YouTube

Now's your chance to catch an original show about YouTube mega-star PewDiePie, if you're willing to pony up $10 a month.

The video site, known mainly for cat videos and other amateur efforts, is kicking off four original programs with more on the way, according to a YouTube blog post Wednesday. The programs are available through YouTube Red, a subscription-only feature unveiled in October that removes ads from all videos.

San Bruno, California-based YouTube joins competitors looking for profits and prestige through original programming. That movement has been driven by consumers who've cut the cord on pricey cable TV packages as well as younger viewers who prefer to get their entertainment online. But people can afford only so many monthly streaming subscriptions, and YouTube faces strong competition from the likes of Amazon, Netflix and Hulu.

The Red Originals programs differ from those typically found on Amazon or Netflix. YouTube's offerings focus on its homegrown stars. Original programs on Amazon and Netflix are geared toward a wider audience. But YouTube's stars have their own coterie of fans. Felix Kjellberg, aka PewDiePie, has more than 42 million subscribers on his game-focused channel. Lilly Singh, aka Superwoman, has nearly 8 million subscribers on her entertainment and comedy channel.

The first four original programs:

  • "A Trip to Unicorn Island," a feature-length movie that follows Singh on a 26-city world tour.
  • "Lazer Team," a feature-length action-comedy about four people who discover a spaceship from another world and try to save Earth from aliens.
  • "Scare PewDiePie," a reality-adventure, 10-episode series that follows PewDiePie as he faces hair-raising situations inspired by video games.
  • "Dance Camp," a film about a summer camp for dancers.

You can watch the videos on a mobile device, computer, Internet-enabled TV or Net-connected game console. You can download the programs on Red Originals to view them offline and play them in the background when using other apps. You can also purchase individual videos on Google-owned YouTube or on Google Play.

If you aren't ready to shell out $10 a month, YouTube is offering a free 30-day trial. Subscribers of Google Play Music, which also costs $10 a month, get access to Red Originals as part of their package. Likewise, those who subscribe to Red Originals get access to Google Play Music.

YouTube Red is available in the United States, but YouTube plans to expand it throughout 2016. For now, people outside the US can purchase the videos via YouTube or Google Play.

This first round of originals is just the beginning. YouTube said it plans to release over the next few months four more original programs: "Prank Academy," "Fight of the Living Dead," "Untitled 360 Game Theory" and "Bad Internet." Two more shows, "Untitled Gigi Gorgeous Project" and "Foursome," are slated for release later this year.

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