YouTube is the latest company to offer free TV shows with ads. The video giant says you’ll now be able to stream almost 4,000 TV episodes for free, as long as you’re also prepared to watch commercials during the show. Shows available include Hell’s Kitchen, Andromedaand Heartland, and you’ll be able to watch them in the US on the web, mobile devices, and “most connected TVs through the YouTube TV app,” YouTube says in a blog post.
With the new free TV shows, YouTube faces a number of major competitors. One is live TV – by offering free on-demand TV, YouTube is probably hoping you’ll see what’s available on its platform instead of surfing channels to see what else might be.
And there are already plenty of options to stream ad-supported TV for free, including Tubi, Xumo, Plex, Roku, and offerings from Vizio and Samsung – to name a few – so YouTube is lagging behind in gaming. That said, YouTube is also already where a lot of people spend a lot of time watching videos, so it’s not hard to imagine people watching TV shows that they can stream for free while scrolling through other YouTube content.
The free shows could also entice people to leave Roku, a company with which YouTube owner Google has had very public disputes. Roku isn’t standing still, however; according to a November report, it plans to develop more than 50 original shows that could appear on its free, ad-supported Roku channel. If we look at potential users by hardware ownership, then Roku, which says 155 million people live in homes with Roku devices, is much smaller than YouTube. Google last said there are over 3 billion Android devices in the wild, and that’s just a fraction of potential devices that have easy access to YouTube.
YouTube’s free TV shows join the range of free movies with ads available on the platform, which currently include Gone in sixty seconds and Revenge of a Blonde. The company plans to add up to 100 shows and movies every week.