YouTube to stream free ad-supported TV shows for the first time – TechCrunch


YouTube today announced that it will stream free, ad-supported TV shows for the first time — a move that will compete directly with the growing number of free streaming services on the market, including Tubi, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, IMDb TV, Xumo, Plex and NBCU’s Peacock. The company said it will initially offer its US users access to more than 4,000 free TV episodes of shows like “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Andromeda,” “Heartland” and others. It plans to add up to 100 additional titles, including shows and movies, to its free streaming collection every week.

YouTube is already home to a number of free, ad-supported movies, so the launch of free TV today is more of an extension of existing free streaming efforts, rather than something entirely new to the company.

Currently, YouTube hosts more than 1,500 movies from companies such as Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate, FilmRise, and others. This month, for example, new movies have been added, such as Gone in Sixty Seconds, Runaway Bride, and Legally Blonde.

But the broader streaming industry — including both ad-supported and subscription-based — is leaning toward TV rather than movies. New original projects that in earlier eras would probably have been movies or at least miniseries are now often released as bingeable shows. The platform creators are also loving this trend as it means users are logging more hours to watch content on their services. The talent and money have long followed, with TV series gaining both the critical attention and acclaim often accorded only to Hollywood movies in recent years.

Image Credits: YouTube

Meanwhile, free TV streaming is now driving much of the growth in the broader streaming market.

According to Kantar data, 85% of U.S. households have a video subscription, but the quarterly growth comes primarily from free ad-supported TV and ad-supported video-on-demand services. 18% of U.S. households now use at least one free ad-supported TV service as of the fourth quarter of 2021 — a figure that has more than doubled since the fourth quarter of the previous year. The most new users in the last quarter were those who signed up for Peacock, IMDb TV, Tubi and The Roku Channel accounts, Kantar said.

YouTube, meanwhile, has a significant footprint in connected TV in the US, if not free TV. Data from Nielsen shows that YouTube reached more than 135 million people on connected TVs in the US by December 2021. But when users searched for TV shows on YouTube, they were directed to rent or buy the titles in question – streaming for free was not an option.

That will change with the launch of the free TV service. YouTube says it will now introduce new navigation and immersive banner art that will help users choose how they want to watch — either through rental or purchase, as before, or for free with ads, where available. The commercial breaks vary in frequency by viewers and the context in which they watch shows, YouTube says. Most ads are sold through the YouTube Select program.

In addition to the handful of bigger names, many of the free shows are older series, such as “Father Knows Best,” “Unsolved Mysteries,” “21 Jump Street,” “The Carol Burnett Show,” “That Girl,” “Car 54, Where Are You?’, ‘The Lone Ranger’, ‘Hopalong Cassidy’, ‘Laugh-In’, ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ and others. Many of the free shows only offered 1 or 2 seasons, even if the series was longer. This library won’t immediately make YouTube a top destination for free TV, but it can sometimes reduce boredom for regular YouTube users.

YouTube also noted that many of its free TV shows are available in high-definition 1080p with 5.1 surround sound audio on supported devices.

The shows will be available to US users starting today via web browser, on mobile devices and on connected TV via the YouTube TV app. You can view a full list of shows at

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