YouTube is Beginning to Stream Free, Ad-supported TV Shows

    Do you regularly spend a lot of time on YouTube? If you’re among the platform’s 2 billion active users, why not watch some free TV shows while you’re at it? This is something you can now do thanks to YouTube’s recently launched streaming television content available absolutely free for its users. The main catch is the shows are ad-supported. But the ads included with the shows shouldn’t be too much of a distraction – especially since ads are also part of the viewing experience with other content on the platform. Keep reading to get the full scoop on YouTube’s TV streaming plans that give you access to free, ad-supported content.

    Jumping into the Free TV Streaming Game

    Free, ad-supported streaming isn’t so new today. It’s already something you can enjoy with Pluto TV, Roku, Tubi, and IMDB TV. What YouTube is actually doing is becoming another player in the free TV streaming game. The second most popular online search engine behind Google recently announced plans to give its users in the United States access to 4,000-plus free episodes of an assortment of shows, including fan faves like “Hell’s Kitchen” and “Heartland.” But that’s not all. YouTube is fully committed to upping its free TV content. The company will be adding roughly a hundred or so additional titles each week. This will include a mix of TV shows and movies.

    Expanding on Ad-Supported Movie Offerings

    If you’re a regular YouTube content viewer, you probably already know about the ad-supported movies the platform regularly presents. It’s a fairly extensive selection of titles that includes “The Terminator,” “Rocky,” and an assortment of visual goodies from Warner Bros., Paramount, and other prolific studios. So, the ad-supported TV content can be considered a supplement to the platform’s ad-supported movies. In other words, it’s a natural progression for YouTube.

    Hopping on Board the Bingeable TV Show Trend

    As for why YouTube is making this move now, it could have something to do with the growing preference for Bingeable TV content rather than full-length movies. In fact, the trend within the streaming industry, in general, is TV shows over movies. This includes ad-supported television content and subscription-based content of this nature.

    Many newer projects that would have once ended up as movies or miniseries are now being made as TV shows. Part of the reason is because it’s easier to break up a bigger story into bite-sized episodes viewers tend to prefer. Another factor may be that the pandemic has changed viewing preferences. Platforms like YouTube also like the increased popularity of TV shows over movies. From this side of things, the main reason for the preference for episodic TV is because it means more time spent logged into a certain platform. While a movie is over in about 1 1/2 to 2 hours or so, binging several episodes of a favorite TV show can mean many more hours of viewing.

    Top Stars are Following the TV Trend, Too

    At one time it was common for big name stars to shy away from fully committing to TV shows – outside of a guest appearance here and there. Today, however, many big stars have hopped on board the TV trend because of lucrative deals and the ability to earn widespread acclaim. This is something that used to be primarily reserved for feature film stars.

    Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, and Steve Carell, for instance, star in the popular streaming TV series “The Morning Show,” which was renewed by Apple TV+ in early 2022 for a third season. And Netflix has “Hunters” with Al Pacino. You’ll also find highly recommended streaming TV content with Danny DeVito, Paul Rudd, Forest Whitaker, Kevin Bacon, Gwyneth Paltrow, Uma Thurman, Ethan Hawke, and Emma Thompson.

    Fueling Growth in the Streaming Market

    Binge-worthy streaming content is also what’s helping the streaming service market grow by giving viewers a wide range of easily accessible visual goodness. According to data reported by, more than 80 percent of U.S. households now have a video subscription. However, the bigger quarterly growth actually came from free ad-supported video-on-demand (VOD) content and ad-supported TV services based on data from 2021.

    What’s more, nearly 20 percent of U.S. households now report having at least one free ad-supported service for TV viewing – as of the last quarter of 2021. To give you a better idea of how much growth this is, this figure is more than double what it was a year prior. When you consider these facts, it’s easier to see why YouTube felt the need to get in on the ad-supported free TV content trend. Many of the ad-supported TV viewers are gravitating towards services like Roku, NBC Universal’s Peacock, and IMDB TV, so YouTube wants to be one of the options.

    YouTube Already Has an Established TV Footprint

    YouTube is a known entity that has expanded immensely since its inception in 2005. The platform still gives content creators a lot of space, but the company’s TV footprint has greatly expanded as well. Nilsen data shows more than 100 million viewers are checking out YouTube on TVs that allow online services to be accessible in a more convenient way. Up until now, if YouTube users searched for TV shows they would usually be given the option to rent or purchase certain titles. But there has not been a free streaming option like what the platform offers with some movies until now. YouTube has plans to really invest in the ad-supported TV market with:

    • A steady uptick in available content
    • New navigation features
    • Banner art to give viewers a convenient option to choose what to watch
    • Some shows available in HD 1080p coupled with 5.1 surround sound audio

    Viewers will still have the ability to rent or purchase various TV show episodes or seasons. The big change is a free ad-supported option is also included now.

    What about the Ads?

    There’s an inherent concern among some avid YouTube users about how bothersome ads might be with some content. But the platform says the ads for the free, ad-supported TV shows will vary in length and be based on the nature of the content being viewed.

    Ready to Try It Out?

    You can give YouTube’s free, ad-supported TV content a try right now. In addition to newer TV shows, the selection available includes faves from the past such as “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” “That Girl,” “Laugh-In,” and “21 Jump Street.” The selection available now as the service is being rolled out is somewhat limited, but YouTube does have plans to keep adding more viewing options. You can check the ad-supported TV selections out for yourself via the platform’s web browser or with mobile devices, smart TVs, or YouTube’s app. Go to for a full list of the free TV options currently available via the platform.

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