Blog Post

DS2DIO: Jon M. Chu builds YouTube a home for dance video

From music videos to Evolution of Dance, dance has always managed to find an audience in the online video world. But DS2DIO, one of the more recent entries in the YouTube (s GOOG) channel initiative, aims to become a central hub for the wealth of dance-related content out there.

Founded by director Jon M. Chu and producer Hieu Ho, DS2DIO (pronounced “D-Studio”) brings together a wide array of dance-oriented content, from the b-boy competition series The Arena to dancing showcase S2DIO CITY.

Chu, whose work includes the second and third Step Up movies as well as the upcoming G.I. Joe: Retaliation, is also an established web creator, already had a close relationship with YouTube, dating back to his 2008 dance battles with Miley Cyrus.

“When they wanted to look for high production quality content, we got the phone call,” Chu said via phone. “We were kind of hesitant, trying to figure out what YouTube wanted — because there was no dedicated dance channel, but there are a ton of dancers on YouTube. We had to be sure that if we were going to do this, we had to lead it — show that high-quality dance content can exist online.”

Also included in the channel is Chu’s scripted series The LXD: League of Extraordinary Dancers, which premiered originally on Hulu in the US, but is now un-geo-blocked for the first time.

And plans for more scripted content are in the works, including a Step Up-esque drama with the working title of The Floor. Another unscripted series, Dance Fantasy, will bring the “dance fantasies” of celebrities to life — both series are in development for Spring 2013.

And the DS2DIO team is also focusing on new types of engagement: For example, the series Master Class teaches new moves and routines — which aspiring dancers can film themselves attempting, then submit the videos to the original choreographers for direct critique. “We’re trying to utilize all these tools to create this unique experience for the audience,” Ho said

As the channel is relatively new, the most-viewed videos on the channel are currently promotional content like the original DS2DIO trailer or a short featuring Justin Bieber. However, the series Remixed, which brings an established dancer and musical artist together to collaborate on an original piece, has established solid five-to-six figure viewcounts. “Seeing two artists come together and create something has been really fun to watch — because we haven’t seen that kind of profile before,” Chu said.

Remixed, at over 10 minutes an episode, is a bit longer than other shows on DS2DIO, as the issue of video length is far from resolved — especially depending on the platform. Chu brought up The LXD as an example, which before its 2010 premiere on Hulu was originally planned as a YouTube series.

Accordingly, the aim was for episodes to be no longer than three minutes — when they made the move to Hulu, though, they had to dramatically increase the length of episodes. “There’s a whole different culture for people watching Hulu videos. People were annoyed by watching a two minute ad for a five minute video”, he recalled.

Having returned to YouTube, though, Chu and the DS2DIO team are still figuring out the sweet spot. “I still think YouTube is meant for shorter length [content], but every few months we can get a little longer,” Chu said. “Right now, I think we’re in a five or six minute world — and that’s inching up every several months.

“Coming back to YouTube is a really interesting experiment because YouTube is also trying to change what people think. That’s what the whole initiative’s about — expanding the identity of what content on YouTube is,” Chu added.