YouTube Orders Ad-Supported Originals From Will Smith, Priyanka Chopra

Kevin Winter/Getty Images; Matthew Eisman/Getty Images
Will Smith, Priyanka Chopra

The Google-owned company has also renewed its deal to live-stream Coachella for another three years.

YouTube is expanding its slate of ad-supported originals with new projects from Will Smith, Priyanka Chopra and LeBron James. 

Smith, who joined YouTube in December, is planning to jump out of a helicopter (attached to a bungee cord) over the Grand Canyon to celebrate his 50th birthday in September. The stunt, dubbed The Jump Off, will stream live on YouTube and will have a charity component. It is being produced by Westbrook Entertainment. 

Chopra will host the series If I Could Tell You Just One Thing, from Sundog Pictures, about her journey to meet inspirational people and ask them advice on how to change the world.

James will executive produce the previously announced high school basketball docuseries Best Shot. The project hails from NBA star's SpringHill Entertainment and Boardwalk Pictures, in association with Blue Ribbon Content. It will debut on the NBA YouTube channel this summer. 

Those projects join Training Days, which will follow comedian and actor Jack Whitehall as he trains with the world's most elite soccer players. The series, produced by James Corden and Fulwell 73, is set to debut Wednesday ahead of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl announced the shows Thursday evening as part of the Google-owned company's annual Brandcast pitch to advertisers. "We see an opportunity to evolve and dig a little deeper using the global reach of YouTube to shine a light on human stories that inspire us and make us smarter," said the exec. 

YouTube is also returning to Coachella, Kyncl revealed. The streamer has reupped its deal to live-stream the event for another three years. Beyonce's performance at this year's weekend-long music festival broke a live-streaming record for YouTube.   

YouTube unveiled its first slate of ad-supported originals at Brandcast last year, part of a plan that Kyncl said was to provide more premium programming to advertisers in the age of ad-free subscription streaming services like Netflix and Amazon. The initial slate featured projects from a number of bold names, including the Ryan Seacrest-hosted competition series Best.Cover.Ever.; Katy Perry's 96-hour Witness live stream, which generated more than 49 million views; a Demi Lovato documentary; a series that took viewers behind-the-scenes at The Ellen DeGeneres Show; and Kevin Hart's What the Fit. The streamer also struck deals with YouTube stars Rhett & Link and The Slow Mo Guys. 

YouTube has renewed The Slow Mo Guys' The Super Slow Show and What the Fit, which is produced by Lionsgate for Hart's Laugh Out Loud channel. Kyncl also said that Lovato will return with a show in which she "pays it forward" to some of her biggest fans. 

With its ad-supported originals, YouTube is leaning into working with traditional talent. It's a change for the company, which placed an emphasis on greenlighting projects featuring its homegrown stars when it first launched its originals efforts. 

The projects announced Thursday differ from originals like Cobra Kai and Step Up: High Water that are found on subscription service YouTube Red. These are not placed behind the paywall and are designed for advertisers. (Ulta Beauty signed on for Lovato doc Simply Complicated and Johnson & Johnson was on board for Best.Cover.Ever.)  

It's no surprise that YouTube is expanding the program given its recent struggles to clamp down on fake news and violent, extremist and exploitative content on its site. In the 12 months since the last Brandcast, a number of advertisers pulled back spending or left the platform all together in protest. Some, like Procter & Gamble, have since announced that they will begin buying spots on YouTube again after the Google-owned company made a number of changes to its content and advertising policies. But premium programming like that announced Thursday represents the kind of brand-safe content for which YouTube wants to be known.

The expanded slate of ad-supported shows were part of a number of Madison Avenue-centric announcements that YouTube made this week. On Monday, the streamer said it will soon offer live YouTube TV inventory through its premium ad tier, Google Preferred, and that it would give advertisers tools to target over-the-top viewers of YouTube content. 

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