In a change of strategy, Google decided to make all of YouTube’s new original series and specials available for free, with ads starting this year. The move comes after speculation that YouTube was struggling to make its YouTube Premium subscription-only plan a viable way to pay for the ongoing development costs of its Originals content.
Initially, shows like the popular Cobra Kai were only available to YouTube Premium and YouTube TV subscribers. Earlier in 2019, YouTube confirmed that it would switch to an ad-supported model for this content, but not until 2020. It appears those plans have moved up aggressively. Beginning this fall, the first two seasons of Cobra Kai will be made available for free, starting with season 1, from August 29 to September 11. Season 2 will be released on an episode-per-week basis starting September 11.
It’s not a complete teardown of the YouTube Premium paywall, but the company is promising more of its Originals will show up as ad-supported titles soon, including supernatural drama Impulse and comedy Liza On Demand, starring Liza Koshy. “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,” YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said at the Brandcast event for ad executives on Thursday, May 2, Variety reports. “While every other media company is building a paywall, we are headed in the opposite direction.”
Hoping to bolster support for the move to an ad-supported model for its premier content, YouTube released the results of a survey, which purport to show that Cobra Kai is the most “in-demand” digital series in the world right now. We’re not entirely sure what to make of this claim, as the concept of “in-demand” is hardly an industry standard. The stat is the result of Parrot Analytics using a combination of “video consumption (streaming and downloads), social media engagement (hashtags, liking, sharing) as well as research actions (reading about shows, writing about shows, etc.); the more consumer effort is required, the more importance the company attaches to each factor,” according to Samuel Stadler, Parrot Analytics’ vice president of marketing.
Using the in-demand metric, Parrot Analytics places Cobra Kai well above CBS’ Star Trek: Discovery and Netflix’s Stranger Things. Metrics aside, it’s worth noting that ad-supported models for content that was once subscription-only are picking up steam. Hulu recently dropped the price of its ad-supported tier and saw an explosion in subscribers. Both Google and Amazon introduced ad-supported tiers to their music services, intended to grab new listeners among those who use Alexa and Google Assistant devices, like the Echo Plus and Google Home.