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.