YouTube Switches to Free, Ad-Supported Streaming Strategy for Original TV Shows

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YouTube on Thursday announced a new original TV content strategy that will see the Google-owned video hub make new programs available to users on a free, ad-supported basis (via Deadline).


Nine new programs will be made available on YouTube this year, with a mix of original content, including a documentary about sports tricks outfit Dude Perfect, and an interactive series featuring YouTube star Mark Fischbach that allows viewers to control the storyline.

Other programs include a third season of the Karate Kid-inspired Cobra Kai, an investigation show from media startup Vox, and a set of standalone films from "The School of Life" YouTube channel, which "explores some of the greatest philosophical questions of our age," according to YouTube.

The development represents a shift in strategy since the arrival of YouTube Premium in May 2018 (previously YouTube Red), which offered ad-free viewing and other benefits, including original programming offered behind a $12-a-month paywall. The latter perk apparently hasn't been as popular as YouTube was hoping, so the new direction is about making original content available to as many users as possible on an ad-supported basis.

"For today's viewers, primetime is personal and our content resonates so strongly due to the diversity and richness of our unmatched library and platform capabilities," Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said in the official announcement. "While every other media company is building a paywall, we are headed in the opposite direction and now have more opportunities than ever to partner with advertisers and share our critically-acclaimed originals with our global audience."

Another reason for the shift is Google's recognition of the growth in viewing YouTube in the living room, where about 250 million hours of YouTube fare are watched every day, on average, according to the company.

YouTube will continue to test original content benefits for subscribers. For example, all episodes from the third season of Cobra Kai will be available to subscribers in one block, while non-subscribers will gain access to one new episode per week. New episodes of some existing programs are also likely to remain subscriber-only because of contractual commitments, YouTube said.

Tag: YouTube

Top Rated Comments

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18 months ago
I don’t mind watching a few 30 second ads if I’m not paying monthly for it like CBS All Access and the lower Hulu plan and if the content is good. I think this is a good move.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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18 months ago
It sounds like YouTube premium doesn’t have many subscribers, or if it does, customers aren't all that interested in the original series. Making them ad-supported will at least get them seen, but if they’re no good people still won’t watch them, even if they’re free.
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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18 months ago
Maybe they reduce their massive premium begging in the iOS app. It’s annoying.
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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18 months ago
Or, and I may be reaching a bit, how about lowering the insane $12/month Premium plan to $7-$8?
Score: 8 Votes (Like | Disagree)
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18 months ago

It sounds like YouTube premium doesn’t have many subscribers, or if it does, customers aren't all that interested in the original series. Making them ad-supported will at least get them seen, but if they’re no good people still won’t watch them, even if they’re free.

Anecdotally, I have a Google Play Music/Youtube Premium Family plan. I have never watched a single YT Original. Neither has my wife or kids. I have heard good things about Cobra Kai though. The problem for YT Originals is unfortunately... Youtube. It has too much content. Love it or hate, YT is the rabbit hole to end all rabbit holes. Even without rabbit holing, people tend to concentrate on their subscribed channels. YT Originals end up being background noise. No one is signing up just to view that. So they might as well make them free with ads. At least they'll get more views.
Score: 6 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Avatar
18 months ago
Google makes original shows? Has this been going on for a while?
Score: 4 Votes (Like | Disagree)

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