YouTube adding free streaming TV series and movies but there's a catch

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YouTube has slashed the price of numerous movies and TV shows down to $0.00 in the US. Most of them are older titles and franchises, but there are some treasures among the selections like Hell’s Kitchen, Legally Blondes, which was just added this month, and the Sandlot franchise. 

The company, which announced the new library of content on Wednesday in a blog post, says that it will be adding up to 100 titles to the free selection each week.

At the time of writing, there are 360 movies and 100 shows to stream for free with ads including hits from Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and more. On YouTube on any device, just go to the “movies and shows” section on the left side, and the “free to watch” shows and movies will appear under your “continue watching” selections. 

Anything available in high-resolution will be available to stream in 1080p and with up to 5.1 surround sound as long as your setup supports it. Of course, you’ll still be able to rent or buy certain titles to stream them without ads, and those will appear in your library of purchased items. 

Analysis: Who doesn’t love free stuff?

They may not be the newest or best selections, but our biggest modern first-world problem is the fragmentation of movies and shows among countless streaming services that are a headache to keep track of. A library of free, continuously expanding, and easy to access movies and shows could be great for everyone, and surely a star at parties too.

In its press release, YouTube also gave us a statistic: over 135 million people were watching YouTube on connected TVs in December 2021. That’s a pretty massive number and potential audience for these new, free offers. This library of free shows and movies could increase that audience.

The fact that Youtube is built into billions of phones and smart TVs also means that the company will be raking in a bunch more ad revenue as people stream the classic shows and movies.

As for us, the people who have to sit through these ads, it's not much different than what we already experience with most YouTube content. Longer videos almost always have interstitials - and this is for content that isn't a highly-produced sitcom or classic movie.

A brief sampling of some of the new library (tested in Chrome's incognito mode) found preroll ads that were, thankfully, skippable, and midroll ads that were also skippable. Surprisingly, no banner ads. Experiences may vary, though, based on content.

Not terrible, and we suspect that those looking for some free moments of Gordon Ramsay yelling at weeping chefs will consider a few ad breaks worth it.

Luke Little
Freelance Contributor

Luke is a nerd through and through. His two biggest passions are video games and tech, with a tertiary interest in cooking and the gadgets involved in that process. He spends most of his time between those three things, chugging through a long backlog of games he was too young to experience when they first came out. He'll talk your ear off about game preservation, negative or positive influences on certain tech throughout its history, or even his favorite cookware if you let him.