YouTube Plots Interactive Programming Push

Courtesy of YouTube
Ben Relles

Ben Relles, who previously served as head of unscripted at the Google-owned streamer, will now oversee the development of interactive programming and live specials.

YouTube is making a move into interactive programming and has tapped a longtime content executive to lead the push.

Ben Relles, who has served as head of unscripted since 2015, will transition into a new role as head of innovation, in which he will oversee the development of interactive programming and live specials. He will continue to report to YouTube global head of original content Susanne Daniels. 

"We now have amazing new tools and opportunities to create and tell multilayered and interactive stories," Daniels said in a statement. "Ben has an intuitive and experienced understanding of how the platform can enhance content making him the perfect choice to develop this exciting new division." 

YouTube's foray into the interactive space follows an effort by Netflix to explore the new, technology-enabled content arena. The subscription streaming giant had dabbled in choose-your-own-adventure style kids programming for a few years before unveiling its first adult-centric program, an installment of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror called Bandersnatch. Since then, Netflix has also announced plans for the Bear Grylls project You vs. Wild, which is set bow Wednesday. Walmart has also teamed with startup Eko to develop interactive programming. 

For YouTube, the move comes amid changes within the programming group. The Google-owned company has largely pulled back from the big-budget scripted projects it had been buying up under Daniels for its Premium video subscription as it has placed a renewed emphasis on unscripted and ad-supported programming. 

Relles first joined YouTube in 2011 when the company acquired online video startup Next New Networks, where he worked as vp programming. While head of unscripted, he oversaw the development of Kevin Hart's What the Fit? and the special The Jump with Will Smith. He also was the YouTube lead on such documentaries as Ariana Grande: Dangerous Woman Diaries and This Is Everything about the life of Gigi Gorgeous. Before Relles joined the YouTube Originals group, he served as global head of creative strategy at the streamer. A new head of unscripted is expected to be announced soon. 

Bloomberg first reported on YouTube's interactive push.