Why ‘Cobra Kai’ Changed Streaming Networks

Cobra Kai cast and crew

Getty The cast and crew of "Cobra Kai" at the show's premiere in New York (2018).

“Cobra Kai” is one of Netflix’s most popular and highly acclaimed original series. However, the show was not always on Netflix – for the first two seasons, the “Karate Kid” spinoff was a YouTube original – first on YouTube Red, then YouTube Premium for season 2.

However, “Cobra Kai,” which was by then a huge critical success among audiences, was acquired by Netflix shortly after the release of season 2 in 2019. So, who was responsible for the change? Well, the answer might not be quite what you think.

Here’s what you need to know:

Netflix Was Always the ‘Right Place’ For ‘Cobra Kai’

To understand why “Cobra Kai” moved to Netflix not long after it began, fans should know that “Cobra Kai” co-creators Josh Heald, Jon Hurwitz, and Hayden Schlossberg had always envisioned the show as being a Netflix original, according to CBR. This was due mostly to the platform’s wide reach and large age range among the audience.

“When we conceived ‘Cobra Kai,’ we all looked at each other and felt Netflix was the right place for it,” Heald said.

In fact, as the show was in its early stages of development and Ralph Macchio and William Zabka – the shows stars who also serve as executive producers – pitched it all over town, it received several offers from a variety of TV channels and streaming services. Offers came from Amazon, Hulu, AMC, and even Netflix itself, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

However, in the competitive bidding war between all the platforms, it was YouTube Red which gave them a “full season offer and a healthy budget,” according to Heald in a 2018 op-ed. With a greenlight for an entire season and the sizable amount of resources offered by the Google-owned company, the offer was simply too good to refuse, despite what the creators may have originally hoped for.

YouTube Decided To Part Ways With ‘Cobra Kai’

Cobra Kai season 2 episode 10 fight scene

YouTubeThe beginning of the final fight scene in the “Cobra Kai” season 2 finale.

Although “Cobra Kai” became a massive success, so much so that some outlets reported that other streaming services should “take notice,” it was the streaming service itself which decided to part ways with “Cobra Kai.”

As YouTube Red transitioned to YouTube Premium in May 2019, shortly after the release of season 2, the company announced that YouTube Premium would be taking a step back from making original scripted content, which meant that shows like “Cobra Kai” would either have to end or find another home elsewhere.

Per Cinema Blend, YouTube reported that the first episode of season 1, which was free to watch on YouTube, amassed 5.4 million views on its first day live. After three months, it had amassed over 40 million. Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s head of global affairs, said in a 2018 speech to the Television Critics Association that the series had “exceeded all of our expectations.”

The season 2 premiere, which was also free to view, amassed 20 million views within a week of its release, making it the fastest YouTube original series to reach that many viewers. According to Rapid TV News, “Cobra Kai” became “the most in-demand digital original series in the world” in the last week of April 2019.

Given that success, it was not a difficult decision for Netflix to offer the show’s creators and executive producers a good deal to come on board with them, thus fulfilling Heald, Hurwitz, and Schlossberg’s dream for the show. At this point, it is unlikely “Cobra Kai” will ever leave Netflix, no matter how many seasons it may end up having.

All three seasons of “Cobra Kai,” all three “The Karate Kid” movies, and even “The Next Karate Kid” are now available to stream on Netflix. Season 4 of “Cobra Kai” will be released December 31. Season 5 is currently in post-production and will likely be released sometime in late 2022 or 2023.

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