YouTube is shopping (what I imagine is) its most popular original series Cobra Kai, which has all kinds of buyers lined up, with — naturally — Netflix and Hulu the presumed frontrunners.
Season 3 of Cobra Kai is currently in the process of airing on YouTube, and Sony Pictures Television asked for permission to shop the show when YouTube declined to order Season 4, but what’s interesting is that the streamer only agreed to let go of the series provided Sony TV could find another home for it. That makes sense. Not only would YouTube be crazy to let the series leave as a free agent and not get any compensation for Cobra Kai after spending millions to market the show and develop its fanbase, but whether it’s Netflix or Hulu that wins this bidding war, both streamers will want to buy past seasons of the series. And that, I imagine, is what these negotiations boil down to. Because there’s no point in Netflix releasing Season 4 if viewers have to go to YouTube to watch the first three seasons and make sense of the story.
Of course, YouTube’s decision is also in line with its mission to retreat from original scripted programming — or at least shows that come at a premium, like Cobra Kai, which is spun off from the hugely successful Karate Kid franchise. It seems like a much more expensive show to produce than YouTube’s other scripted series, Liza on Demand starring popular YouTube personality Liza Koshy. Meanwhile, as I wrote this article, Starz has revived YouTube’s canceled Step Up series, which really puts a fine point on this entire paragraph. At the end of the day, it just seems like no one really wanted to pay for content on YouTube… and they kinda knew that.
Deadline reports that interest in Cobra Kai was especially high given the fact that Hollywood production remains shut down. With their cabinets running bare, multiple streamers stepped up to air Season 3, but YouTube decided to release it themselves, as negotiations with rival streamers have been long and complicated. Of course, there are likely millions of Netflix subscribers who have never heard of Cobra Kai, or refuse to subscribe to YouTube, and so Season 3, just like Seasons 1 and 2, will be brand new to them. That’s why the show has real value — dozens of hours of content that people actually seem to enjoy. You’re not guessing whether the show has a fanbase, because you already know that it does. Ka-ching! That’s what makes this different from Sony TV moving On Becoming a God in Central Florida from YouTube to Showtime — that deal was ahead of the show’s debut.
For those not familiar with Cobra Kai, this continuation of the original trilogy stars William Zabka and Ralph Macchio and picks up decades after the events in the Karate Kid movies. It was one of the Top 10 most-Googled TV shows in 2018, and the first episode drew 55 million views on YouTube, though to be fair, it was released for free in front of the site’s premium paywall.
Cobra Kai is written and executive produced by Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz and Hayden Schlossberg. The three of them serve as showrunners, and also direct most of the episodes. Zabka and Macchio executive produce alongside Will Smith, James Lassiter, Caleeb Pinkett and Susan Ekins.