YouTube isn't putting all of its upcoming original series behind a paywall.
Months before YouTube announced its ad-free subscription service YouTube Red and a slate of its first-ever original series that will only be available on the $9.99 a month paid tier, the Google-owned video service signed a deal with Schick Hydro to sponsor an original show that won't be limited to the subscription service when it premieres on January 11.
"We've always said that these types of originals could appear either [ad-supported] or in the Red environment," said John Nicoletti, Google's managing director of agency development.
That resonated in YouTube's post-NewFronts conversations with brands and agencies, particularly Schick and its media agency MEC, which were looking to buy more than pre-roll ads. The original-series sponsorship deal with Schick "came along out of the upfront conversations over the summer," Mr. Nicoletti said.
At the same time as those conversations were going on, digital video network Defy Media was getting to work on a YouTube-backed original series called "Part Timers." Set at a Chuck E. Cheese's-like restaurant called Pork-E-Pine's, the show is "'The Office' meets 'Adventureland' meets 'Superbad' in the workplace with a dancing porcupine," said Defy Media's Chief Content Officer Barry Blumberg.
Most importantly to Schick, the show stars two of YouTube's biggest names, Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla from the Smosh YouTube network. Smosh, which is part of Defy Media, was already on Schick's radar because the brand wanted to get in front of millennial-aged males that "really grew up watching the Smosh [channel]," said Anastasia Tobias, Edgewell Personal Care's senior brand manager for Schick Hydro.
The timing of the show's production and YouTube's post-NewFronts conversations meant that Schick could do more than slap its logo on the show's opening title card. "Schick really wanted to be involved, from looking at what the script would be like and the premise down to actually being on set during filming," Mr. Nicoletti said. "It was far more involved than making an investment in Google Preferred or making a buy on TrueView."
As part of the sponsorship deal, the show's director and head writer have created 20-second videos for the brand that will run as ads against the show and feature its stars and tie into its storylines. In addition to those custom videos and title-card mention, the Schick Hydro razor will also be incorporated into some of the show's initial 10 episodes, which will run 10 to 11 minutes apiece and air weekly.
"I can say with certainty that more than one person will shave" on the show, Mr. Blumberg said.
As much as the show is an opportunity for Schick to get its brand in front of Smosh's more than 21 million subscribers, it's also a new way for Defy Media to get Smosh's own brand out there.
"It's a great evolution for the [Smosh] brand because we're trying to make something people will come back to week after week and in a slightly different way than comedy sketches or a movie, which is a one-off," Mr. Blumberg said. "We're trying to build the brand out to be something larger than two guys with a YouTube channel." In addition to starring in the show, Mr. Hecox and Mr. Padilla are also executive producing the series.
Among the earliest YouTube stars, the duo behind Smosh have grown their entertainment footprint to additionally distribute their videos on their own site and app as well as other digital video services including Comcast's Watchable, Verizon's Go90 and Vessel. This summer, they premiered their first feature film, which is now available on Netflix.
YouTube remains the first place, however, where Defy Media turns to distribute Smosh's videos, Mr. Blumberg said. "If they can support what we want to do creatively and economically, it is certainly the best place for us to be," he added.