YouTube Enters ‘Free TV’ Streaming War, Adds Access to Nearly 4,000 Free Classic TV Episodes

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In one blog post, YouTube said US users will be able to access around 4,000 episodes of classic TV shows, adding to the service’s collection of free movies. The TV series can be found now under the “Movies & Shows” tab on YouTube’s desktop, mobile and connected TV apps.

As of press time, free shows include Gordon Ramsey favorites “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Kitchen Nightmares,” reality series “Scream Queens,” and scripted drama “Heartland,” among others. The bulk of the free programs are made up of classic sitcoms, dramas, and reality series. The company said the majority of programs will be available in 1080p high definition, with 5.1 surround sound on select devices.

YouTube said it would add up to 100 new titles every week. These TV shows will be added to the platform’s existing collection of more than 1,500 films from major home entertainment distributors including Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. and Disney.

As Netflix, HBO Max and Hulu battle for paid subscribers, other tech companies are investing heavily in ad-supported streaming TV services. Roku is adding more free and ad-supported content to its Roku Channel, Amazon is doing the same with IMDb TV, as Paramount is doing with Pluto, and Fox Corporation is doing the same with Tubi. That doesn’t even mention free TV from Samsung and Vizio, as well as Peacock, Plex, and Sumo.

Consumer adoption of connected TVs continues to soar. Views from Parks Associates to suggest that more than 56% of American homes have a “Smart TV”. That’s when cable and satellite providers continue to see subscribers “cut the cord” in droves, with more than 4.6 million Americans canceling their pay-TV subscriptions in 2021.

As viewers shift their eyeballs away from linear TV, brands are beginning to shift ad dollars to connected TV providers, which are typically younger than traditional cable audiences. A recent survey from tvScientific found that brand recall was stronger with connected TV ads than with comparable social media ads.

Despite the onslaught of paid subscription services, which often offer ad-free content, the same survey found that 92% of consumers who watch streaming content also use at least one ad-supported service.

YouTube said 135 million people have streamed videos from its service on connected TVs, an audience that will likely grow as it adds more content optimized for the format, like TV and movies. The move will also likely appease advertisers who want to shift ad spend to the platform, but have been concerning about association with content from independent creators who may delve into controversial topics or misinformation.

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