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YouTube adds free TV series and shows, with advertising

The line between YouTube and YouTube TV is blurring even more, with the addition of full seasons of series — nearly 4,000 episodes in total — now available on YouTube. They’re free to watch, but there will be advertising — just like if you were to watch them on-demand on YouTube TV itself.

And YouTube also is rolling out “brand new streamlined navigation and immersive banner art,” which it says “will help you more easily find your favorite TV shows.” It also says that you’ll be able to watch many of the shows in 1080p resolution, and with 5.1 surround sound.

Hell's Kitchen promo for YouTube.

That sure sounds a lot like YouTube TV, the $65-a-month linear streaming service from Google that is among the top three in the United States. (Hulu With Live TV has 4.3 million subscribers, and Sling TV last reported 2.486 million subs; YouTube TV hasn’t given an update since October 2020, when it said it had “more than 3 million.”) The big difference, of course, is that YouTube TV has live content, like sports and news, as well as all the traditional linear channels that show specific things at specific times.’

It also sounds a lot like what you get on AVOD services (that’s advertising-based video-on-demand) like Tubi, Pluto TV, The Roku Channel, and more. So YouTube isn’t really breaking new ground here, it’s just muddying the waters between its products that much more. And it’s a pretty busy space in which to play. The ViacomCBS-owned Pluto TV, for example, last reported 64 million monthly active users. But YouTube basically is the home for all online video that doesn’t come from a studio, and it notes that between YouTube and YouTube TV, it reached some 135 million people on connected TVs in December 2021.

YouTube also still has more than 1,500 movies available to stream for free, from such publishers as Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate, FilmRise, and more.

The free series and shows on YouTube are only available in the United States.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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