Apr 29, 2015 · 2 minutes

Yesterday, YouTube announced that it would produce a series of feature films in partnership with Dreamworks subsidiary AwesomenessTV that would premiere on its platform. The company also revealed four comedy series it would produce with some of its most beloved creators, including the Fine Brothers and Smosh.

On first glance, the play seems like an attempt to keep up with other tech platforms that have found success with original content, like Netflix and Amazon -- and in a way it is. But the move accomplishes perhaps an even more important goal: Retaining YouTube's talent.

Last week on the ten year anniversary of YouTube's first-ever video, I wrote about two trends that don't bode well for the Google-owned video site: With mobile video finally coming into its own, big tech firms like Facebook, Yahoo, Snapchat, and Twitter, along with upstarts like Vessel are getting more serious than ever about video. Since implementing autoplay on mobile, Facebook's video views skyrocketed from 1 billion to 3 billion a day in just 8 months as it continues to creep up on YouTube's 4 billion daily video count. Snapchat video views have also increased as the company strikes content partnerships with media outlets like VICE that have historically hosted their content on YouTube. Meanwhile, Twitter may finally start taking Vine seriously, and Yahoo and Vessel have each announced ambitions to court big YouTube stars to join their video platforms.

The second trend is that many YouTube stars have become disillusioned with a number of moves the platform has made in the past year, including making major changes to its partner-creator agreements that place more restrictions than ever on how artists can host and monetize their work.

“No one in my fold is fleeing from YouTube but, look, the dialogue is evolving,” says Andrew Graham, one of the top talent managers of the YouTube age, representing stars like Connor Franta, Kian Lawley, and other people you've never heard of but your children most certainly have. “I don’t think they’re going to necessarily lose their partners because of that, but it brought into question the type of partner YouTube is. Initially, to a lot of creators, they felt they could live an entirely independent life through creative ambitions. they felt like YouTube was there to support [them], and now it seems like this is a real business thing, and now YouTube is getting a little greedier.”

But if YouTube is indeed "getting a little greedier," then at least this announcement shows it's also willing to provide new, potentially lucrative content deals -- including films which it will likely sell a la carte -- in return for taking away some of its creators' freedom.

For better or worse, this is the new paradigm for content on the web. While YouTube spent most of its first decade as a wild and free open platform that admittedly produced dubious profits for its creators, it is morphing into a more restricted site -- not unlike a traditional television network -- that can nevertheless produce more revenue for itself and its artists (hopefully) by putting its muscle and money behind high quality films and television series that it can sell either through subscription offerings or a la carte like iTunes. And as long as creators continue to get paid, they'll stick with YouTube because right now at least, that's where the biggest video audiences still live.

[GIF by Brad Jonas]