YouTube Reportedly Working to Launch Free Ad-Supported TV Channels Hub
Between the launch of YouTube's PrimeTime Channels and YouTube TV securing the rights to NFL Sunday Ticket, Google does not seem to be resting on the ubiquitous video streaming service’s laurels, because on Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that YouTube has launched a small test that would provide users the opportunity to watch free ad-supported streaming TV (FAST) channels via a hub on the service.
Rumors of the move first began circulating in late 2021 and the experiment now seems to be a way for YouTube to gauge the possibility of moving into the FAST marketplace that every other free streaming service embraced with both arms in 2022. The Roku Channel, Pluto TV, Tubi, and other free streamers consist primarily of free-to-watch television and movie channels that operate like traditional linear TV channels. They run 24 hours per day and generally focus on a single theme, series, or performer. The content also incorporates traditional commercial breaks, allowing the platforms to monetize the content without charging viewers.
However, unlike subscription streaming services, the channels do not come with an on-demand library. FAST channels have become a familiar, comforting return to old-style television that removes the stress of searching for the perfect new title to watch while also not costing the viewer any additional money.
A YouTube spokeswoman confirmed the project to the WSJ saying, “We’re always looking for new ways to provide viewers a central destination to more easily find, watch and share the content that matters most to them.”
The WSJ reports that the content currently being featured in the hub is from Lions Gate, A+E Networks, Cinedigm Corp, and FilmRise. These providers are already significant players in the FAST marketplace, providing content to a wide variety of platforms. The article indicates that YouTube is currently operating on the idea that it would monetize the channels similarly to how it does videos from content creators on its traditional video platform. YouTube would keep 45% of the advertising dollars generated, while the content owners would get 55%.
Throughout most of 2022, all sorts of streaming services looked to add FAST channels as they are believed to be the perfect counterbalance to the increasingly expensive and far-too-cluttered subscription video-on-demand (SVOD) streaming world. Not only did free platforms add FAST channels at break-neck speeds, but so did live TV streaming services like fuboTV, and even Warner Bros. Discovery has openly discussed the eventuality of launching free channels in the near future.
If and when YouTube moves forward with rolling out its version of a FAST channels hub, it will undoubtedly cause a significant ripple across the free streaming world. YouTube is already the most widely used streaming service in the world, and if it decides to branch out into another area of the industry, it will almost certainly draw a lot of eyes away from services already in the space.