Given its massive, ubiquitous online presence in video, it makes the most sense for YouTube to have its own original series. But from the start, the strategy was confusing to consumers. For one, it was called YouTube Red, which was far too close to the names of certain shall-not-be-named porn sites. Further, YouTube’s entire premise was built on it being free, and suddenly it was asking people to pay a subscription to see its scripted content. With such a glut of TV available and so many streaming sites popping up with their own original series, what could have been a major launch was instead a niche side to a megasite that hasn’t really broken through the TV zeitgeist.
At least, that was true until Cobra Kai, which is YouTube’s biggest original series to date (the premium service also changed its name from Red to Premium, which makes far more sense). Still, it has been a pretty big barrier to tell people they need to pay to see Cobra Kai, or any number of YouTube’s other original series (which we have a handy ranking of here).
So now, according to a press release, that barrier is being lifted—for a limited time—with ad-supported viewing. You can still subscribe to YouTube Premium and get an ad-free experience along with bonus content, but YouTube Originals is taking a page from the Disney Channel (the 1990s version), and basically bringing back “free preview weekends.” It makes a ton of sense, especially because the selections won’t just be one or two episodes, but full seasons.
In the case of Cobra Kai, the first season will be available to watch for free (with ads) today, with Season Two getting weekly episode drops starting September 11th. Other original series will be rolling out with ad-supported viewing built in.
As the press release notes, “As part of the kickoff, YouTube also announced the greenlight and premiere date for The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash, (October 8th) a new slate of five original European series, including Virtually History (November 6th) a special that takes a personal look at the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall through the eyes of those with family members connected to the moment in history, and Season Two premiere dates for Liza on Demand (September 25th) and Impulse (October 16th), along with free windows to catch up on each series’ first season.
You can also continue to sample the first episodes of other great YouTube original series like Wayne and Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television for free, although whether or not they will also become available for free full-season viewing remains to be seen.