In a surprising move, YouTube added a to its content library with a large number of TV shows and movies, and the titles are free, according to SlashGear. American users can now indulge in over 4,000 episodes of various shows and hundreds of movies at no extra cost, all of which are available for free on YouTube.
SlashGear believes that while this is a good (unexpected) move by YouTube, most people know it’s best not to look at it on the surface. Why would a service that is struggling to make money suddenly decide to offer thousands of hours of content for free? The answer is simple: to make more money.
Most people are paying for some sort of streaming service. Whether it’s Netflix, Hulu, HBO Max, or Disney+, there are plenty of websites and apps that have access to movies and shows through monthly subscriptions. YouTube has a Premium program that lets users watch content without ads, but anyone with a personal computer and a little technical knowledge can circumvent ads without having to pay for the YouTube Premium plan. However, paid subscriptions also give users access to exclusive content and allow videos to play even if the user exits the app.
In addition to YouTube, Google also had the Play Store, which also sold movies and shows on top of apps. However, the company recently announced that it will continue to move forward and focus on apps and games on the Play Store. Where does that make YouTube go, and what exactly does Google want to do?
YouTube’s decision was very strategic. Although all these movies and shows are offered for free, users will have to watch ads every once in a while. This choice may seem counterintuitive, but YouTube isn’t the first service to adopt an ad-backed model. Just recently, Disney+ announced that it would release a cheaper subscription service that costs less per month but inserts some ads as users watch streaming content. Similarly, Peacock, Roku, and Tubi operate on an ad-backed basis.
Considering that YouTube Premium has nothing to offer compared to services like Netflix, switching to an ad-friendly model may be the right way for YouTube to go. However, content is still free today, and some users may find ways to bypass ads. Similarly, those who subscribe to YouTube Premium will have access to the same catalog of shows and movies, but won’t have to deal with advertising.
One day, will YouTube decide to put all this content behind a clear paid “wall”, or will it stick to its current model? It’s hard to say, but the platform certainly has big plans. YouTube has revealed that it plans to add new movies and shows every week. At present, the lineup includes classic works such as “Look at the Evil Girl Opposite” and “Legally Pretty Lady”, and “The Running Bride” and other fan-favorite works will soon join in.
In the early days of YouTube, the site focused on various forms of creativity and simply documented the lives of those who liked to log in for fun. It’s clear that YouTube has come a long way since then. The company used to produce its own shows with the help of YouTube influencers as part of a service called YouTube Originals. Now, it seems to be changing that approach as well, and it has shifted its focus to promoting Shorts. YouTube Shorts, much like Snapchat stories or TikTok, are quick and easy to click and continue videos.
Now, it’s hard not to feel that YouTube could be split in half. With Netflix, Peacock, and other such platforms on one side, and Instagram, TikTok, and similar social media apps on the other, YouTube is struggling to adapt to crowds on both sides, and it’s not an easy task. It requires being able to attract different groups of people and offer a variety of content, rather than focusing on just one type of creativity. YouTube’s competitors, on the other hand, are also expanding, seeing TikTok recently extend its maximum video length to a staggering 10 minutes.
Whether YouTube plans to one day become a subscription service like Netflix is hard to say, but the odds are very small. This ad-backed model is likely to stick around for a while, as YouTube gives it a chance to pilot it.