YouTube is tapping Kevin Hart, Ellen DeGeneres and other big-names to make original shows

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Kevin Hart Kevin Winter Getty

Kevin Winter/Getty

Kevin Hart

NEW YORK - YouTube plans to produce a slate of original video programs to air on its website, as the Google-owned company seeks to retain its audience amid competition from the likes of Netflix, Hulu and Facebook.

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During a presentation at New York's Javitz Center on Thursday, YouTube boss Susan Wojciki showcased some of the new programs, which she said were something that YouTube advertisers had been asking for.

The shows will feature big-name celebrities like Ryan Seacrest and comedian Kevin Hart, and will be available exclusively on YouTube's free, advertiser-supported website, and not on the company's subscription-based premium service.

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YouTube is the world's most popular video streaming website, but much of the content is unpolished, created by amateurs and occasionally offensive - a problem that has come to the fore in recent months as advertisers discovered that their ads appeared alongside violent and racist videos. More than 250 brands reportedly pulled their spending.

"We apologize for letting some of you down," Wojcicki said on Thursday. "We can and we will do better."

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The effort to bankroll high-quality original programming for the site marks the YouTube's third-attempt and underscores the challenge of finding the right formula for success in video streaming. YouTube initially spent more than $100 million in 2011 to help launch channels anchored by big names like Madonna and ESPN. That initiative was not entirely successful, and YouTube took another shot a few years later, this time relying on home-grown YouTube stars instead of celebrities.

Now it appears that YouTube has reversed course yet again, and believes that celebrity talent will be the key to success.

It was not immediately clear whether the new programs would be short, 5-minute clips or longer, TV-length programs.

In total, YouTube announced 6 new original shows with stars including Demi Lavoto, Ellen DeGeneres, comedy duo Rhett & Link.