YouTube Joins Ad-Supported TV Show, Movie Market

YouTube is entering the ad-supported VOD market, offering catalog TV shows on par with Pluto TV, Tubi, The Roku Channel, Crackle, Shout! TV and Xumo, among others.

According to Nielsen, Google-owned YouTube reached more than 135 million people on connected TVs in the U.S. in December 2021. The platform is at the forefront of the consumer shift to connected television (CTV) viewership. Now U.S. viewers for the first time will be able to watch full seasons TV shows on YouTube for free with ads. This includes almost 4,000 episodes from programs such as “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Andromeda” and “Heartland,” among others.

YouTube also has more than 1,500 movies from Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate and FilmRise, among others. New titles in March include Gone in Sixty SecondsRunaway Bride and Legally Blonde, which are now available to stream for free with ads.

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To help facilitate AVOD consumption, YouTube is unveiling a new streamlined navigation, immersive banner art and new menus to help users find their favorite TV shows — with options to rent, purchase, or watch for free with ads. Many of these titles are also available in high definition 1080p with 5.1 surround sound audio on supported devices.

U.S. users can access these movies and shows and up to 100 new titles each week on Web browsers, mobile devices, and most connected TVs via the YouTube on TV app.

Almost 70% of survey respondents said they would choose AVOD over SVOD, according to new data from Hub Research Insights. Disney contends its pending AVOD service will help the Disney+ platform reach 260 million subscribers by 2024.

Dave Castell, GM of Inventory & Partnerships EMEA at The Trade Desk, a U.K.-based research group, says YouTube’s foray into AVOD is a wake-up call to the market.

“YouTube has heard loud and clear the demand from consumers for a premium library of binge-worthy shows, without a hefty price tag,” Castell wrote in a note. “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.”

The analyst found that media companies such as Discovery, which acquired WarnerMedia, and ITV, which co-owns BritBox, are eyeing AVOD with the launches of combined ad-supported and subscription-based services in the U.K.

“It’s only a matter of time before other major broadcasters and streamers kick into gear,” Castell wrote.

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