YouTube expands to ad-supported free TV shows in the US

YouTube has first entered the realm of ad-supported television, confirming that it will be adding thousands of TV shows, from Hell’s Kitchen to Unsolved Mysteries, to its ad-supported streaming service.

The video-sharing platform will serve small-screen content to American audiences, presenting the challenge of competing with ad-supported TV and streaming services like Peacock, Disney+, and Tubi.

Soon widely available, YouTube promises 4,000 TV episodes, which will be made available alongside 1,500 movies (and more) already available to watch, such as Runaway Bride and Legally Blonde.

The new service is supported by updated menus and movies and is available in high definition, with support for 5.1 audio on select devices.

By using elongated material, YouTube is trying to keep its audience longer and gain an ever-increasing share of recreational views in addition to the cat videos and home content that made it famous.

Dave Castell, general manager of EMEA inventory and partnerships at The Trade Desk, said: “This is a turning point for the industry. YouTube has heard strong and clear consumer demand for a premium library of valuable programs. Beware without a High Price.

“It’s clear that free content is becoming increasingly popular with consumers around the world and this is the right step for streaming giants like YouTube to take advantage of this opportunity. With the portfolio getting smaller and smaller on this side of the Atlantic, the question is when changes will inevitably occur in Europe in the US.”

He points out that we’ve already seen Discovery announce the expansion of its hybrid offering, “Ad-Lite”, in the UK and Ireland, as well as the launch of ITV ITVX, the combined AVOD/SVOD offering that replaces the ITV hub.

Offering thousands of hours of free content is an effective way to achieve this, although YouTube has so far followed a strategy of quantity rather than quality, meaning TV junkies are unlikely to give up their Netflix subscriptions. This is a significant change from YouTube Originals, which tried to entice viewers with a special order for flagship shows like Cobra Kai, which found life on Netflix.