November 27, 2018
YouTube has quietly begun offering catalog studio movies for free on its website, including titles such as Legally Blonde, Rocky IV, Zookeeper and The Terminator, among others.
The ad-supported streams appeared last month alongside new releases promoted to buy or rent on YouTube.com (i.e. Google Play).
“We saw this opportunity based on user demand, beyond just offering paid movies. Can we do ad-supported movies, free to the user?” Rohit Dhawan, director of product management at YouTube, told AdAge. “It also presents a nice opportunity for advertisers.”
Indeed, with most of the titles already cycled through retail channels, including DVD, Blu-ray Disc, transactional VOD and SVOD, marketing the IP through the broadcast TV model online to more than 1 billion users offers incremental revenue opportunities for all parties involved.
With targeted advertising seen as a new way for marketers to reach select demographics, eMarketer estimates YouTube could generate billions in revenue annually from ad-supported movies.
“This is a huge business opportunity,” said Farhad Massoudi, CEO of ad-supported Tubi TV. “There’s a lot of consumer traction and I expect all the major companies will jump in at some point.”
Indeed, to help market the Feb. 9, 2019, theatrical release of The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, Warner Bros. Pictures and YouTube offered free streaming access to the original Lego Movie on Black Friday embedded in an online ad.
The promotion marked the first time YouTube rolled out a full-length movie within an ad.