YouTube is about to implement major changes on how it handles premium content, new reports reveal. The most important forthcoming change sees its original content — currently behind the $12 monthly YouTube Premium paywall — soon available for free but with ads.
In a startling but unsurprising shift of strategy, the Google-owned company stated that starting next year, all of its new original programming will be available for anyone to stream for free. Until now, most YouTube Originals such as the critically acclaimed Cobra Kai have mainly been accessible through its YouTube Premium subscription service, with those unwilling to shell out the fee unable to watch such content. A subscription comes with added perks, including ad-free and offline viewing.
"As we look to 2019, we will continue to invest in scripted programming and shift to make our YouTube Originals ad supported to meet the growing demand of a more global fanbase," a spokesperson for YouTube said, as Variety reports. "This next phase of our originals strategy will expand the audience of our YouTube Original creators, and provide advertisers with incredible content that reaches the YouTube generation."
YouTube Originals Compared With Other Video Streaming Services
Thus far, YouTube's original lineup hasn't garnered the same level of accolades, acclaim, and appeal as Netflix, Amazon Video, and Hulu have, with some shows from the latter three garnering multiple Emmy nominations and entering the broader pop culture spectrum, such as Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, and a number of others.
That's in part because YouTube's budget for original programming isn't exactly as massive as those of its competitors. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the YouTube Originals budget ranges in the "hundreds of millions." Netflix and Amazon, by contrast, have "several billion" to spend on original content, and many of them go on to reap awards and acclaim.
The Video Streaming Pie
It's clear YouTube wants a bigger piece of the video streaming pie going forward, a goal that will only be met with more difficult challenges — namely the arrival of Apple's and Disney's forthcoming streaming platforms. To achieve this, the company seems to be planning on making more celebrity-produced content alongside typical creator-based videos, instead of higher-budget scripted shows.
To be clear, YouTube isn't going to halt production of original content — it's simply planning to decimate the paywall locking them from wider viewership, and that principle will apply to both current and future shows.
YouTube doesn't disclose subscription numbers for its premium subscription service, but it's fair to assume it doesn't parallel Netflix or even Amazon Video's numbers. Hopefully this move changes things in YouTube's favor.