YouTube confirms shift from pay to free for premium content

YouTube has confirmed that its premium content will be available for free as the business shifts to an ad-supported model for originals.

The Google-owned platform used its NewFront presentation in New York on Thursday (May 2) to reveal that originals such as Cobra Kai will live on on the platform, but will be moved in front of the paywall. All originals, which were previously available to watch as part of a $12 monthly subscription, will be ad-supported by 2020.

The confirmation comes months after it was first revealed that YouTube was pulling out of the SVOD race and winding down its four-year-old YouTube Premium (previously titled YouTube Red) offering, which has badly struggled to compete with the likes of Netflix and Amazon.

The service has held off on buying scripted titles since late last year, and recently cancelled four scripted shows, including Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on TelevisionChampaign ILLSideswiped and Do You Want to See a Dead Body.

However, YouTube said it has renewed Cobra Kai – its critically acclaimed Karate Kid spin-off – for a third series, and will secure free windows for other originals as well. Programmes returning to the platform are creator-centric, and include Kevin Hart: What The Fit and Liza On Demand as well as new titles such as Dude PerfectMarkiplier and a secret project with Justin Bieber.

The slate will be available to advertisers through bespoke sponsorships and Google Preferred lineups.

DTVE sister title TBI understands that the business has been quietly shifting its focus to live music, events and gaming for some time, and has been picking up music-focused programmes internationally. YouTube said earlier this week that learning and personalities are also pillars in its content strategy going forward.

The platform has greenlit a full series based on Michelle Obama’s literary special BookTube. The new show will see the former First Lady and best-selling author in conversation with top influencers in the literary world. Episodes are to be released each month, beginning this summer.

Robert Kyncl, chief business officer for YouTube, said: “For today’s viewers, primetime is personal and our content resonates so strongly due to the diversity and richness of our unmatched library and platform capabilities. While every other media company is building a paywall, we are headed in the opposite direction and now have more opportunities than ever to partner with advertisers and share our critically- acclaimed originals with our global audience.”

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