VidCon Day 1: Live Ambitions, a 'Step Up' Series and The Rock Joins YouTube

6:50 PM 6/23/2016

by Natalie Jarvey and Candice Lim

The first day of the annual online video conference kicked off Thursday in Anaheim.

VidCon 2016
VidCon 2016
Getty Images

VidCon kicked off Thursday with its usual display of all things internet, promising concerts, meet-and-greets and large-scale activations centered around the top online creators. The annual online video conference — expected to draw more than 25,000 people to Anaheim, Calif. over three days — has become known for its groups of enthusiastic teenage fans. But media and entertainment companies have started to infiltrate, too.

Up on the third floor of the Anaheim Convention Center was the industry track, where people kept their conversations more civil even if the screams of excited fans could still be heard from down below. Here digital media executives and creators talked about live video, the future of the subscription video business and the creation of original content. These were the highlights from the first day.

  • Live, Live, Live

    VidCon couldn’t have started on a better day, mere hours after people around the country saw the power of live video in action when House Democrats streamed their sit-in live via Facebook and Twitter’s Periscope. Live was on the lips of many executives, including Facebook director of product Fidji Simo, who, during an on-stage interview, announced a number of updates to the social network’s live product. Facebook will soon roll out the ability to go live using Facebook-owned MSQRD, which creates digital filters. The company is also adding support for more than one person to go live together.

    YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, meanwhile, used her annual keynote as a platform to remind audiences that the Google-owned streamer has had support for live video since 2011 and will soon make it possible to go live directly from its app. "The momentum behind [live] has just been getting stronger," she said, noting that live streams on YouTube have tripled.

  • Stepping Up YouTube Originals

    YouTube’s keynote, usually full of news aimed at the creator community, was full of reveals about its original content plans for its Red subscription streaming service. In addition to renewing two projects from YouTube creators and ordering up another Smosh movie, the streamer has also given a series order to an adaptation of Step Up from executive producer Channing Tatum. Content chief Susanne Daniels tells The Hollywood Reporter that she’s been talking to Lionsgate about the project for years: "I just kept calling and calling and finally, when they were ready to take it out, I was here."

  • The Rock on The Tube

    Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson had previously announced that he would be creating a YouTube channel, but he used VidCon to tease the project to his fans, with a little help from self-professed fan and fellow YouTube creator Lilly Singh. The channel will officially launch July 18 and currently features a trailer for a new project, Ascendance, described as a high-brow action film. During an on-stage interview, Singh also hinted at a potential collaboration with Johnson.

  • #TeamInternet Tackles Diversity

    On Thursday’s fan mainstage, six prominent (and diverse) YouTubers discussed why YouTube has become a supportive community for a multi-faceted group of creators and fans. Viewers vote with their view, said Philip Wang, a member of YouTube group Wong Fu, putting power into the hands of YouTube’s community members to see change. "Hollywood is so old," said Wang. "They’re afraid to take risks. The change we really need to see is not going to happen fast enough."

    Later, Wojcicki closed her keynote with a powerful message about acceptance on YouTube in the wake of the shooting at a gay club in Orlando. "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, noting that the shooting shows "that the march for progress, for understanding and equality, is far from over."

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