YouTube Joins the Free, Ad-Supported Streaming TV Market

YouTube recently announced that it plans to offer full seasons of ad-supported streaming TV series free of charge, a first for the Google video platform. The move will put YouTube in competition with a growing number of free streaming services such as IMDb TV, Peacock, Plex, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, Tubi and Xumo. U.S. consumers can expect more than 4,000 free episodes to start, with up to 100 additional film and television titles to be added each week. The popular video site already offers more than 1,500 free, ad-supported movies, so the television content is expected to serve as a vital expansion of its streaming options.

“More people are choosing to experience YouTube on the big screen with friends and family,” notes last week’s announcement on the YouTube Blog. “In fact, according to Nielsen, YouTube reached over 135 million people on connected TVs in the U.S. in December 2021.”

“YouTube also has over 1,500 movies from Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate, FilmRise, and more. New titles in March include ‘Gone in Sixty Seconds,’ ‘Runaway Bride’ and ‘Legally Blonde,’ which are now available to stream for free with ads.”

Expanding its library of free shows and movies could increase YouTube’s audience size and, as TechRadar points out, since the service “is built into billions of phones and smart TVs,” the company will likely generate “more ad revenue as people stream … shows and movies.”

According to YouTube, the upgrade comes with “new streamlined navigation and immersive banner art.” In addition, many of the streaming titles are available in 1080p with 5.1 surround sound.

It is worth noting that “the broader streaming industry — including both ad-supported and subscription-based — tends to be gravitating toward TV instead of movies,” reports TechCrunch. “New original projects that would have likely been movies, or at least mini-series, in previous eras, are often now released as bingeable shows. The platform makers like this trend, too, as it means users are logging more hours watching content on their services.”

Kantar data indicates that 85 percent of U.S. households currently have video subscriptions, “but quarterly growth comes primarily from free ad-supported TV and ad-supported video on-demand services,” TechCrunch explains.

As of Q4 2021, 18 percent of households were using “at least one free ad-supported TV service” (a significant jump over 2020) and Kantar points to new sign-ups “for Peacock, IMDb TV, Tubi and The Roku Channel.”

For those interested, visit the full listing of Movies & Shows currently available via YouTube.

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