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Media Future of TV Video Streaming

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


By John Glenday | Reporter

March 23, 2022 | 3 min read

YouTube has moved into the domain of ad-supported television for the first time with confirmation that it is to add thousands of TV shows, from Hell’s Kitchen to Unsolved Mysteries, to its ad-supported streaming service.


YouTube is to offer free ad-supported TV shows in the US

The video-sharing platform will offer the small-screen content to US audiences, laying down the gauntlet to rival ad-supported TV and streaming services such as Peacock, Disney+ and Tubi.

YouTube will hit the market at scale from the off, promising 4,000 TV episodes, which will be made available alongside 1,500 movies (and counting) that are already available to view such as Runaway Bride and Legally Blonde.

Supported by updated menus and visuals, the new service is available in high definition, with support for 5.1 audio on selected devices.

By embracing long-format material, YouTube aims to hold on to its audiences for longer, commanding an ever-greater share of leisure viewing beyond the cat videos and homebrew content that made it famous.

Dave Castell, general manager of inventory and partnerships EMEA at The Trade Desk, said: “This signifies a step-change for the industry. YouTube has heard loud and clear the demand from consumers for a premium library of binge-worthy shows, without a hefty price tag.

“Clearly, free content is increasingly resonating with consumers worldwide and it’s the right move for streaming giants such as YouTube to tap into this opportunity. With purse strings tightening on this side of the Atlantic, it begs the question of how soon changes like this in the US will inevitably follow in Europe.”

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 ITV launch ITVX, its combined AVOD/SVOD offering set to replace ITV Hub.

Offering thousands of hours of content at no cost is an efficient mechanism for achieving this goal, although thus far YouTube has pursued a strategy of quantity over quality – meaning TV addicts are unlikely to forego their Netflix subscriptions just yet. This marks a significant shift away from YouTube Originals, which had seen it seek to win over audiences with specially-commissioned flagship programs such as Cobra Kai – which has itself found life on Netflix.

Media Future of TV Video Streaming

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