Van Toffler, Susanne Daniels & Lyor Cohen Talk YouTube’s ‘Released’ – Deadline

MTV’s Total Request Live, better known as TRL and originally hosted by Carson Daly, was one of the cable network’s biggest shows during its run between 1998 and 2008.

The show aired the most requested music videos of the day as voted for by viewers.

However, by 2008, the internet, and particularly YouTube had become the preeminent destination for music lovers to find their favorite videos. Twelve years on, YouTube’s Released, which launched last week, is taking up that mantle for a new generation of fans.

The show, which is a 15-minute series that follows musicians before they launch their new music video is exec produced by Van Toffler, who set up Gunpowder & Sky in 2016, having spent 28 years at MTV.

“As an executive at MTV, I was maligned on many days. One of those days was the day I decided to kill TRL, and the fact of the matter is I didn’t kill TRL, technology killed TRL. All of a sudden, this technology comes along that allows music video lovers to consume whatever music video they’d want whenever they want, and that was YouTube, and so why would they wait for us to program nine videos they didn’t like to get to the one they did like,” he tells Deadline. “That was the playground in place where music lived and you could spend hours on YouTube, but it felt like there was no communal place where you could enjoy new music together, emerging artists, discovering together, sharing, so, the idea just kept coming back to me.”

Toffler’s former MTV colleague Susanne Daniels was subsequently hired as Global Head of Original Content for YouTube and the pair, along with Global Head of Music Lyor Cohen, conspired to get a new show off the ground.

“I think it goes back to when we worked together at MTV,” Daniels tells Deadline. “Van was so passionate about doing this show that we really tried to develop it, the whole time I was at MTV, but Van would often talk about what is the next TRL, what’s the evolution of TRL, and how do people want to consume music today and what can we do to offer them the latest and greatest, and inside scoop, and access to music. Van and Lyor share a passion for music and for this kind of music content.”

Cohen tells Deadline he sees it as a “reimagined” version of TRL. “One of the most important things that I’ve tried to do since joining Google and YouTube was to go into deep collaboration and partnership with our partners. The music industry kept saying they would love some help reimagining how we can get an event back into the language of releasing albums and videos and singles. It used to be an industry that really flourished from events because that drove a lot of excitement and enthusiasm and engagement with the fans and then the fans went to work in promoting that excitement to their friends. But now in the world, where you just get to it when you want to get to it, you don’t have those shared moments.”

Daniels says around 25% of content consumed on YouTube is music-based. The first episode, which feature K-pop stars Blackpink, has had over 10M view since it launched last week. The day of the week is also significant. The series will air at 11:45pm ET before the music video goes live at midnight. This comes ahead of Friday, which has become the de facto day for new music launches, across the digital platforms including Spotify and Apple Music.

This week’s episode features dance stars Major Lazer, featuring Diplo, with their new video for Oh My Gawd featuring Mr Eazi.

The 16-part series, of which around half of the artists has already been chosen, is produced by Den of Thieves and executive produced by Van Toffler, Barry Barclay and Matt Elias for Gunpowder & Sky. Evan Prager, Jesse Ignjatovic, Jordan Barrow and Jared Morrell will executive produce for Den of Thieves. Jeff Sammons will serve as an executive producer and showrunner. Alex Piper, Head of Unscripted, and Margaret Burris, Development Lead, will oversee the series for YouTube Originals.

Toffler says that the show is indicative of the way that the new generation of kids consume content. “You don’t need me to talk about the trials and tribulations of linear TV. There’s a whole generation that’s grown up, we call them the streaming generation, it’s part of why I left because that’s how they consume content, and it’s not in half-hour, hour bites with loads of commercials, it’s how they want to do it, they’ll binge, and that’s why it felt to me like that was the place to break news, to break artists, to even create a communal experience because it opened so wide, and there were so many kind of black holes you could go down,” he said. “Kids want to wake up and say, who went crazy last night, did Kanye go off the rails, tell me about it, right, and it felt like TV was no longer that place. It clearly wasn’t news networks for young people, it was on-demand, it was a feed that you got, so having it live on YouTube and on-demand just feels like the perfect place to break this stuff.”

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