YouTube says forthcoming original series and specials will be free with ads

Key Points
  • YouTube said Thursday in a presentation to advertisers that all of its forthcoming original series and specials will soon be available to watch for free with ads.
  • "While every other media company is building a paywall, we are headed in the opposite direction," said its chief business officer, Robert Kyncl.
Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube.
Michael Newberg | CNBC

YouTube said Thursday its forthcoming original series and specials will be available for free with ads.

The tech company made the announcement Thursday night at its Brandcast event as part of the IAB Digital Content Newfronts. The change gives YouTube more opportunity to partner with advertisers.

YouTube parent Alphabet reported a sharp decline in year-over-year ad revenue growth in its Q1 earnings Monday, and Alphabet's CFO said part of the reason was a slowdown in click-growth on YouTube ads, related to some changes the company made in early 2018. She was likely referring to changes YouTube made to curb the spread of fake news and conspiracy theories, indicating the platform may be willing to forego some short-term ad revenue for the longer health of the company.

"While every other media company is building a paywall, we are headed in the opposite direction and now have more opportunities than ever to partner with advertisers and share our critically-acclaimed originals with our global audience," YouTube's chief business officer Robert Kyncl said in a statement.

Original shows were previously primarily available to subscribers of YouTube Premium, the company's paid streaming service that costs $11.99 per month. The company had said it would shift its original programming to be free and ad-supported last year.

The company said seasons one and two of "Cobra Kai" will be available free with ads this fall, and said it will announce free ad-supported premiere dates for more shows like "Impulse" and "Liza On Demand."

The company also said YouTube TV's 70 broadcast and cable channels would be available as their own lineup on Google Preferred (a YouTube program that lets brands advertise on the top videos) this upfront season, allowing advertisers to "zero in on live and on-demand inventory" and making it so brands "can go beyond demographics to reach audiences based on their interests," the company said in a statement.

The company's discussions of brand safety were brief during the presentation. Still, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said it's a priority.

"Let me be very clear, living up to our responsibility is my number one priority," she said. "And we are making significant progress. My leadership team and I, along with thousands of people at YouTube, are laser focused on this."

Correction: This story was updated to reflect more precisely what Alphabet CFO Ruth Porat said on the company's Q1 2019 earnings call. 

Joel Kulina on Google
Joel Kulina on Google