Showtime is the new HBO. I mean that both figuratively and literally. In the past five years the premium television service has significantly upped the quality of its original programming to the point where it’s at least on par with, if not better than, the content you’ll see on Home Box Office.

showtime-youtubeIn order to create that kind of quality – the kind that spans multiple seasons, attracts paying subscribers, and upon which you can build out your talent roster, create more acclaimed content, which in turn attracts more paying subscribers – Showtime tapped HBO talent.

Michael C. Hall and Edie Falco are the leading man and lady, built up to stardom by their stints on HBO series, who are big reasons why Showtime is doing so well. Hall kicked it off, transforming from a gay undertaker into a serial killer with a heart of gold. Then came Falco, who became a morally ambiguous nurse after being a morally blind mafioso’s wife.

The success of the former-HBO-and-now-Showtime stars gave network executives the idea to tap other big names for talent. Enter Matt LeBlanc with Episodes. And now YouTubers with Short Stories.

Showtime reached out to some of the most talented content creators on the internet’s largest video sharing site to create a series of shorts. Trevor Noren, Showtime’s Creative Director of Digital Content, explains the initiative as a way to “bring the [Showtime] brand to a new audience, while at the same time showing the work of these amazing artists to our subscribers.”

The first series of seven shorts features works from YouTubers Michael Langan, PES, Levni Yilmaz, Mixtape Club, Jeff Sher, Cyriak, and Don Hertzfeldt. Each of them were given one simple direction – “to tell a short story in an innovative way.” My favorite is the nautical adventure, five years in the making, by PES, the stop-motion animator extraordinaire, but all are worth a watch.

Noren told YouTube he hopes to make Short Stories ongoing project. He’s already tapped a few creators for the next season, but is also taking suggestions from viewers. “Names pop up all the time in comments on the videos. Everyone from Czech great Jan Svankmajer to Mystery Guitar Man. The best way for us to find new talent is to watch and listen to the YouTube community.”

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