This week, YouTube has launched a new slate of TV shows in the app that users will be able to watch for free, with ads, as it makes another advance into commercial TV territory.
As explained by YouTube:
“YouTube is at the forefront of the consumer shift to CTV viewership as the top ad-supported streaming platform with the content people enjoy and the creators they love. And now US viewers for the first time will be able to watch full seasons of TV shows on YouTube for free with ads. Now you can stream nearly 4,000 episodes of your favorite TV shows, including Hell’s Kitchen, Andromeda, Heartland and more.”
4,000 episodes is a lot, while YouTube also says that over 1,500 movies from Disney, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, and more are also available in the app.
YouTube has, of course, offered TV shows and movies on demand for some time, but now, users will be able to tune in to a huge range of content, at any time, for free, so long as they can put up with a few ads in relevant gaps.
And even then, there’ll likely be fewer ads than they’d see on traditional TV – and with so many options on offer, you can imagine that this will be a very popular offering.
Indeed, according to YouTube, millions of users are now watching YouTube content on their home TV sets already, with Nielsen confirming that over 135 million people watched YouTube content on their TV screens in December 2021.
Connected TV viewing is now YouTube’s fastest growing usage category, and for many younger users who’ve always had YouTube available, it’s now become the default viewing option, with traditional TV channels and stars barely registering in their sphere of consciousness.
That’s also shifted video consumption behaviors. These days, viewers are accustomed to being able to jump ahead if they want, and skip to something else, which has impacted presentation styles and production approaches, in line with evolving attention spans.
As each of these trends takes hold, that further reinforces YouTube’s status as the top viewing platform. The capacity to watch TV series’, as you choose to view them, aligns with this shift, and again, will no doubt prove to be a popular option.
It’ll also significantly add to YouTube’s ad inventory, providing new opportunities for brands to reach viewers in the app with TV-like campaigns, at a much more affordable price, and with a lot more targeting options.
So is this the death knell for traditional TV?
Right now, TV viewing is still relatively strong, with data from eMarketer (published last June) showing that traditional TV viewing remains a key source of media time spent, in relative terms.
Though mobile consumption is clearly on the rise. Another study conducted by the Consumer Technology Association earlier this year found that US consumers now spend almost as much time streaming videos on social platforms as they do watching traditional TV, while TV viewing time, overall, is in clear and steady decline.
As noted, for younger consumers, who’ve never known a time when the internet didn’t provide on-demand content, streamed in real-time and high-quality, regular TV channels are very clearly an afterthought, and the clock does appear to be counting down for TV stations as we know them, as newer video platforms take over, and new offerings like this shift viewing paradigms.
This specific update may not be the final straw, as such, but it’s another step towards the gallows for the old-school networks. And while many of them are adjusting, many others will soon go the way of the dinosaurs or DVDs, gradually fading out as older audiences stop dictating the most relevant media sources.
As such, this is an important, and significant development, which is worth noting within the broader digital shift.