YouTube Plans to Offer Free, Ad-Supported Originals in 2019

In a strategy shift, Google-owned YouTube plans to make much of its original video programming available for free starting next year. YouTube Originals will be offered as free, ad-supported content, rather than exclusively available via the $11.99-per-month YouTube Premium subscription service (formerly called YouTube Red). YouTube will continue to greenlight scripted productions, but plans to scale back in order to focus on more mainstream celebrity-driven and creator-based reality offerings. YouTube refers to the new strategy of combining ad-supported and SVOD programming as “Single Slate.”

“Until now, YouTube Originals have mainly been available on its YouTube Premium subscription service,” reports Variety, “although YouTube also has expanded the shows and movies it makes available on an ad-supported basis.”

“As we look to 2019, we will continue to invest in scripted programming and shift to make our YouTube Originals ad supported to meet the growing demand of a more global fanbase,” explained a company rep. “This next phase of our originals strategy will expand the audience of our YouTube Original creators, and provide advertisers with incredible content that reaches the YouTube generation.”

Initially, some original content debuting next year will remain behind the paywall, but “by 2020, YouTube’s original shows and movies will be available in free windows for all YouTube users,” notes Variety. “The move will make YouTube Originals available to the platform’s nearly 2 billion users worldwide.”

YouTube Premium will continue to offer subscribers ad-free and offline viewing as well as early access to original, exclusive content as it continues to chase the likes of Netflix and Amazon, which have much higher production budgets. According to Gizmodo, “The company has not disclosed just how many people pay for YouTube Premium, YouTube TV, or its newest service, YouTube Music Premium.”