SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – YouTube plans to make all future original programming available to users for free with advertising, as the video streaming unit of Alphabet Inc’s Google seeks a bigger audience for shows and movies that had mostly been restricted to paid subscribers.
The shift in strategy means that starting in 2020, a YouTube Premium subscription will no longer be the only way to watch most original programs, with all users having some access.
YouTube’s paid option will still remove ads from originals as well as all other videos, and it comes with music streaming privileges.
YouTube said earlier on Tuesday that the new strategy will kick in next year, but later noted that though it will apply to content planned in 2019, the actual programming will debut the year after.
YouTube has not disclosed the total number of subscribers for the paid offering, launched three years ago, which is available in 29 countries.
It said its move to make programming free was aimed at satisfying growing international user interest in original programming and advertiser demand to associate with special content. The move also gives the company more flexibility in marketing its programs.
Some future programming or behind-the-scenes content may remain exclusive to subscribers, if only for a brief time, a person familiar with the thinking said.
YouTube Premium costs about $12 a month in the United States.
The dozens of previously released shows and movies in YouTube Premium, such as the first season of popular action comedy “Cobra Kai,” will remain behind the paywall, the company said.