For the first time, YouTube is letting users in the US stream thousands of free, ad-supported TV shows like Hell’s Kitchen, Heartland and Unsolved Mysteries, it announced. That will put it into competition with OTA (over-the-air) TV and streaming services with ad tiers including Peacock, the Roku Channel, Tubi and others.
YouTube will offer around 4,000 free TV episodes on top of the 1,500 movies already available. This month, it added a raft of new movie titles including Gone in Sixty Seconds, Runaway Bride and Legally Blonde, now available to stream for free (in the USA only) with ads.
With the new TV offerings, YouTube is no doubt hoping to keep American users glued to its platform. Having dozens of episodes from multiple series will allow users to binge like they do on Netflix and other platforms, though most of the content on offer is not what you’d call prestige TV. One of its biggest rivals in that regard is Roku TV, which had a very public dispute with YouTube that was only recently resolved.
Until last year, YouTube had been trying to fill content holes with its own programming via YouTube Originals. Earlier in 2022, however, it announced that it was largely abandoning those ambitions and would focus strictly on its Black Voices and YouTube Kids Funds. The program had some success with shows like Cobra Kai, but didn’t pose much of a threat to services like Amazon Prime Video and Netflix.