YouTube Red, the premium streaming service home to such original series as Bad Internet and the forthcoming Untitled 3BLACKDOT Animated Series, has ordered an e-sports sitcom from Dan Harmon’s Starburns Industries.
According to Variety, the half-hour, scripted series will star Dan Avidan and Arin Hanson, who are apparently YouTube stars with more than three million subscribers and one million YouTube followers. Co-creators and exec producers Jesse Cox and Michelle Morrow, both YouTubers and gamers, giddily described the show in a video released yesterday.
“It’s about five players who wanna get into e-sports and they don’t know how,” said Cox. Morrow continued: “And they’re up against all of the biggest orgs and all of the big banner teams, with sponsors and different disciplines in games, and they have to figure it out.”
Rick and Morty writers Sarah Carbeiner and Erica Rosbe will serve as showrunners and writers for the yet-untitled series, which sounds a good deal like a feature the two developed with the Film Independent Lab. That script, Sparkle Panthers, revolved around an all-female e-sports team, which… does not describe Avidan and Hanson. YouTube Red develops programming specifically for YouTube stars, you see, in what seems to be a transparent bid to satiate existing fanbases. Here’s YouTube’s Global Head of Content Susanne Daniels at the entertainment conference MIPCOM, earlier this week:
People have asked me, what’s our original programming strategy? Are we planning to mirror Netflix or Amazon’s in bringing TV to digital, or recreate the programming themes of MTV? The answer to those questions is no. Our goal is to be uniquely YouTube. And our thesis is simple: identify YouTube’s most engaging stars and top genres, and invest in the content that fans tell us they want. In other words, let our community drive our content.
Well, okay. This golden age of content is a double-edged sword. More programming on more platforms means more opportunities for more creators of more diverse backgrounds—great! But YouTube’s “community-driven” strategy seems less than progressive, if only because “community” is an ill-disguised euphemism for ratings. There’s already a platform where creators put engaging stars in popular genres with the goal of appealing to massive preordained fanbases: network television. YouTube may have more democratized distribution—though YouTube Red, at $9.99 a month, certainly does not—but if it takes a wholly Chuck Lorre/Dick Wolf/Shonda Rhimes approach to original programming, then it’s hard to see how Daniels is doing anything but bringing TV to digital.
But, then again, there’s the other side of the sword, too: we’re about to get gosh-dang e-sports sitcom from three Rick and Morty writers, two of whom are women. What a time to be alive.