YouTube CEO on content, subscriptions, competition

Susan Wojcicki, CEO, YouTube speaking at #VidCon, July 23, 2015.
Harriet Taylor | CNBC

The big star of the annual VidCon convention wasn't a content creator: It was YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

Wojcicki unveiled a new mobile video app and talked to the thousands of content creators who packed her keynote about how she wants to keep them happy. Immediately following her speech, she sat down in an exclusive interview.

Watch out Netflix: YouTube CEO
Watch out Netflix: YouTube CEO

YouTube is taking a bold move toward a new kind of original content, with a big hire from traditional television, MTV's Susanne Daniels. Wojcicki explained what the future of premium content will look like on YouTube:

"We were really impressed with the work that she did at MTV. And we think she's really familiar with our demo and really familiar with YouTubers, and that she's going to help us take some of her knowledge from developing content and grow it even more on YouTube," Wojcicki said.

Wojcicki says her strategy with originals isn't about creating a specific type of TV show or documentary, like Netflix creates. Rather, she's trying to keep YouTube's content creators happy. And with big YouTube stars, like comedy duo Smosh, selling a movie directly to fans starting this week off YouTube, it makes sense that Wojcicki would want to find new ways to profit from the success created on her platform.

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Wojcicki said when YouTubers say they want to do more, her team will go to them and ask "What's something you've always wanted to do? Have you wanted to do a scripted comedy?" or maybe there was a movie or something that they've always wanted to do. And so then we can work with them and find a way to make that happen."

Facebook takes on YouTube
Facebook takes on YouTube

On the heels of YouTube being a key driver of Google's better-than-expected quarterly results last week, Wojcicki explained she's working to grow advertising revenue while creating a new, second revenue stream. "We just see a lot of opportunity to continue to bring more advertisers to the platform. ... Some of our biggest advertisers, they're actually just getting on YouTube for the first time. We're working with them to understand how they can continue to change their [ad content]."

The company is also working on a subscription service, with the idea that YouTube could be both ad and subscription supported, Wojcicki said.

Launching a subscription would put YouTube into even more direct competition with the services such as Vessel and Vimeo, which have been selling early access to YouTube creators' new content, days before it's launched on YouTube. "I think everyone has a different approach to what they think is valuable for a user to pay for. … Our goal is just to enable our creators to be able to generate revenue with advertising and also with subscription," Wojcicki said.

Youtube's millionaire stars
Youtube's millionaire stars

YouTube's biggest rival is Facebook, which not only now has its own video player it's positioning as an alternative to YouTube, but it also is now sharing ad revenue with content partners. "They're a large player," she said. "And so I think it's always important to ... look at the competition and to take it really seriously."

And if Wojcicki finds a start-up to help YouTube better compete—and better serve creators and viewers—she'll be willing to snap it up: "There're a lot of really interesting small companies that pop up all the time. I'm always impressed with how dynamic this landscape is. And so if anyone comes along that can help us get there faster, we'll definitely be talking to them."

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(CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story misspelled Susan Wojcicki's name.)