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Guillermo Del Toro & Legendary Entertainment spook up YouTube

The competition for video ad dollars is heating up—and Facebook is making a play to lure content creators to its platform—so YouTube is pulling out all the stops to keep viewers and content creators hooked.

YouTube is teaming up with filmmaker Guillermo del Toro and Legendary Entertainment for a Halloween competition. Called "YouTube Space House of Horrors: A Legendary Halloween," creators with channels on YouTube can use sets inspired by Del Toro and his film "Crimson Peak," which Legendary is releasing next October. The shorts started streaming on the creators' YouTube channels, the YouTube Spaces channel, and Legendary's YouTube channel.

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A scene from the video short “The Passing,” shot at the YouTube Space House of Horrors.
Lana McKissack | YouTube
A scene from the video short “The Passing,” shot at the YouTube Space House of Horrors.

Del Toro offered "creative consultations" to YouTube creators who pitched horror concepts. And he will select the scariest to receive a development deal with Legendary, the studio behind "The Dark Knight" and "The Hangover." "I think it's important to find the new voices that you can help usher in to the world. Particularly in their genre, like horror," says Del Toro in an interview at YouTube's Los Angeles space.

"Horror—I think is only as good as the voices existing at that moment, and I've done many, many first time directors' first movies," he said.

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The filmmaker says while he doesn't use Facebook, he often references YouTube to find classic scenes to reference, and he believes in the power of the platform to foster new talent. "[YouTube's] truly very democratic, instantly accessible," Del Toro says. "And that's a very integral part of the way I think story telling will change in the next five to ten years."

The contest gives Legendary and Del Toro a chance to foster a dedicated fan base—reaching millennials, the hardest demographic to target with TV ads. It's also designed to be a win for YouTube: the semi-professional content can lure new viewers. And the perk of working with a top filmmaker on professional sets—and the chance to secure a production deal—can help placate creators frustrated with YouTube's 50/50 advertising split. YouTube sees the value of keeping its creators happy—that's why it offers free access to its "YouTube Spaces" in three cities, with a location in New York opening this month.

"Our motto is 'bringing together the most creative people in the world; so we try very hard to take money out of the equation and just make beautiful content," says Liam Collins, head of YouTube's Los Angeles space. "The longer version of the story is, that ends up being good for YouTube and good for the creators on YouTube. So if audiences grow, everyone does well."

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This is part of a bigger trend of YouTube partnering with studios to help them promote movies, and to help YouTube lure viewers (and advertisers. In a similar partnership, this summer 29 YouTube channels were selected to produce shorts with props from "Godzilla," also produced by Legendary. And we can expect to see more partnerships and competitions to promote big films, perhaps even the upcoming "Star Wars."