YouTube Taps Ben Relles to Lead Programming Innovation

Google’s YouTube is planning new original programming with a focus on live specials and interactive content. Ben Relles, former head of unscripted for YouTube Originals, will assume his new role as head of innovation to lead the initiative. Reporting to Susanne Daniels, global head of original content, Relles will be responsible for the development of new scripted and unscripted original programming intended to foster interaction and engagement with viewers. Interactive content has been getting more attention since the success of Netflix’s “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.”

“YouTube is developing choose-your-own-adventure-style shows, exploring a new storytelling format that could increase viewers and ad sales for the world’s largest video website,” notes Fortune. “Producers have tried for years to tell stories that let viewers pick different outcomes, but only recently has the technology advanced enough to entice large investments from some of the world’s top media companies.”

“We now have amazing new tools and opportunities to create and tell multilayered and interactive stories,” explained Daniels. “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.”

Netflix has another interactive original, “You vs. Wild” featuring Bear Grylls, that premieres this week, while others including Walmart-backed Eko are developing interactive projects.

“YouTube has already experimented with interactive advertisements,” adds Fortune. “But interactive programming — with multiple storylines — requires a far larger investment to ensure choices load without buffering. Netflix has built technology that remembers the choices users make over the course of a story.” In addition to “Bandersnatch,” Netflix has produced a number of interactive shows for children.

“Relles’ new role comes amid YouTube’s shift to a new programming strategy, which it calls ‘Single Slate,’ to make all of its original programming available free to watch,” reports Variety. “That will include in some cases an exclusive window on its YouTube Premium service, which is priced at $9.99 per month in the U.S.”

The move signals “a shift for YouTube Originals toward content with a wider appeal that can amass a big audience on the free, ad-supported side as well as SVOD.”