YouTube Orders Shows From Dwayne Johnson, Dan Harmon, Doug Liman

Todd Spangler
Variety

YouTube, taking more big swings with its original content, announced series from Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson and Dany Garcia’s Seven Bucks Productions, Dan Harmon and Doug Liman, which will be available exclusively on its YouTube Red subscription service.

In addition, YouTube has greenlit a second season of murder mystery series “Escape the Night” from digital influencer Joey Graceffa, who has nearly 9 million subscribers across his two YouTube channels.

Johnson, the former wrestler turned TV and film star who now has over 1.3 million subscribers to his YouTube channel, will executive produce a new half-hour action series together with ProSiebenSat.1’s Studio71 and Corridor Digital. The series, which has the working title “Lifeline,” will center on a life insurance company that sends its agents forward 33 days in time to prevent the accidental deaths of its clients.

“We’re taking our YouTube partnership to the next level with ‘Lifeline,’” said Johnson in a statement. “YouTube has given me the opportunity to connect with my fans on a very direct level, and now we’re teaming up with the most innovative creators in the game to bring our special brand of action adventure to the audience.”

From director and exec producer Doug Liman (“Bourne Identity,” “Live. Die. Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow”) and Universal Cable Productions comes “Impulse,” a sci-fi thriller about a young girl who discovers her ability to teleport away from danger. Jeff Lieber (“Lost”) attached to write and produce the hour-long series, slated to feature top YouTubers.

Dan Harmon’s Starburns Industries will produce a half-hour scripted comedy series for YouTube Red featuring YouTube stars Dan Avidan and Arin Hanson of “Game Grumps.” The show follows a newly formed team of eSports players trying to make it to the top in the cutthroat world of competitive gaming.

Those will join the growing slate of YouTube Red originals, which includes a series based on the “Step Up” dance movie franchise from Lionsgate. Channing Tatum is on board as an executive producer along with his wife and co-star in the films, Jenna Dewan Tatum, along with the five films’ original executive producers Adam Shankman, Jennifer Gibgot and Meredith Milton.

Susanne Daniels, global head of content for YouTube, announced the new original series Monday in a keynote at Mipcom, who reiterated that the video giant’s strategy with YouTube Red is not to try to replicate Netflix or Amazon in bringing “TV to digital.”

“Our goal is to be uniquely YouTube,” she said. “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.”

YouTube hasn’t disclosed how many subscribers it has for YouTube Red, which costs $9.99 per month and features no ads, offline viewing and unlimited access to Google Play Music. According to Daniels, previously MTV’s top programming exec, the original series have become one of the leading drivers of YouTube Red subscriptions, with viewership that “rivals cable shows in the U.S.” Over half the time people spend watching originals is on their mobile phones, while YouTube Red users watch more than 75% more YouTube video on their TVs than the average non-paying user.

This summer, YouTube announced that it was renewing AwesomenessTV’s series “Foursome” for a second season, season two of “Scare PewDiePie” starring Felix Kjellberg, and the sequel to Rooster Teeth’s “Lazer Team” movie.

Other YouTube Red programming includes post-apocalyptic teen thriller “The Thinning,” a movie starring digital celeb Logan Paul and Disney Channel star Peyton List, as well as comedy series “Buddy System” from YouTube creators Rhett & Link and a concert special and documentary from British comedy team Dan and Phil.

More info on the four YouTube Red series announced Monday:

  • “Lifeline” (working title): Eight-episode sci-fi action thriller, slated to debut in 2017, will be directed by Corridor Digital’s Sam Gorski and Niko Pueringer. Written by Ben Freiburger and Grant Wheele; executive producers are Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Brian Gewirtz and Hiram Garcia for Seven Bucks Productions and Dan Weinstein, Gary Binkow and Amee Dolleman for Studio71.
  • “Impulse”: Based on the third novel in the “Jumper” series by Steven Gould, Jeffrey Lieber (“Lost,” “NCIS: New Orleans”) is writing the pilot, which is scheduled for production before the end of year. Executive produced by Doug Liman along with Hypnotic’s David Bartis and Gene Klein, who also produce Universal Cable Productions’ series “Suits” for USA Networks. It’s the first deal between UCP and YouTube.
  • Untitled comedy from Dan Harmon’s Starburns Industries: Created by Michele Morrow and Jesse Cox, gaming-industry professionals, who also will appear as actors in the series about a newly formed team of eSports players trying to make it to the top in the cutthroat world of competitive gaming. The six-episode series will debut on Game Grumps’ YouTube channel in 2017. Executive produced by Dan Harmon (“Community,” “Rick & Morty”), Michael Waldron, Steve Levy, Arin Hanson and Brent Lilley, along with Morrow and Cox. Sarah Carbiener and Erica Rosbe (“Rick & Morty”) will serve as showrunners and writers, as well as co-EPs.
  • “Escape the Night” season 2: Returning star and host Joey Graceffa will transport ten YouTube creators into a new whodunit murder mystery, produced again by Brian Graden Media and Graceffa and slated to debut on YouTube Red in 2017. The first season, which debuted in June, has generated over 9.2 million views and featured digital influencers GloZell, iJustine, Lele Pons, Shane Dawson, Eva Gutowski, Andrea Brooks, Timothy DeLaGhetto, Matt Haag, Oli White and Sierra Furtado.

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