YouTube Offering Familiar TV Shows Free With Commercials

(Image credit: YouTube)

YouTube, looking to compete with free-ad supported streaming channels as more of its viewing occurs on connected TVs, is offering viewers a collection of licensed TV programs they can watch for free with commercial interruptions.

Google’s streaming video giant said it has more than 4,000 episodes of shows including relatively recent series like Hell’s Kitchen, cult favorites The Prisoner and Thunderbirds, such classics as Bonanza and The Dick Van Dyke Show and black and white oldies like The Rifleman and Dennis the Menace.

It plans to add up to 1,000 new titles each week that users can access via web browsers, mobile devices and connected TVs via the YouTube TV app.

Also: YouTube's $8.63 Billion in Q4 Revenue Surpassed Netflix

YouTube also has more than 1,500 movies from studios including Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount, Lionsgate and Filmrise. New titles available to stream free with ads in March include Gone in Sixty Seconds, Runaway Bride and Legally Blonde.

YouTube built a huge business with user generated content but found the original content business more challenging.

Now a big chunk of its viewership is coming via connected TVs, with people watching on a big screen with friends and family. YouTube points to Nielsen stats showing that YouTube reached 135 million people on connected TVs in the U.S. in December.

“To enhance the viewing experience in the living room, we’re unveiling brand new streamlined navigation and immersive banner art to help you more easily find your favorite TV shows from the comfort of the couch whether you choose to rent, purchase or watch for free with ads. Many of these titles are also now available in high definition 1080p with 5.1 surround sound audio on supported devices,” YouTube said in a blog post.

More people are spending more time streaming content, and increasingly, they’re choosing lower-cost ad supported options over pricier subscription services.

YouTube offers YouTube Premium, which provides videos and YouTube music ad free for $11.99 a month.

CTV is one of the fastest-growing areas in video advertising as brands look to engage with cord-cutters and other streamers.

Also: YouTube Moves BrandCast to Broadcast’s Upfront Week

YouTube will be selling the ads in these shows mainly through YouTube Select, a collection of YouTube’s most-watched content aimed at brand-safety conscious television advertisers. ■

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.