YouTube is starting to stream movies for free. No, we don’t mean those “low-production” indie movies or, worse, unauthorized copies of copyrighted films. We’re talking about older, but not too old, classics like “Terminator” and “Rocky”. The video on demand giant has silently been flipping the switch for dozens of its full-length videos in its YouTube Movies catalog. But like with anything on the Internet, you pay the price of free by being interrupted and watching ads.
YouTube has long ceased to be just a place to share cat videos and insane antics to the world. It’s a giant money-making machine if only YouTube could figure out the best way to actually making money off it. Movie rentals and sales are probably not cutting it and its exclusive original content seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. So like most of Google’s products, its best profits lie in advertising.
Easier said than done, as YouTube is painfully learning over the past years. Unlike ads on web pages, YouTube ads are put under a microscope not just by users and privacy advocates but even by the advertisers themselves. The service has come under fire recently for showing ads in user videos related to controversial topics like terrorism and hate speech. Advertisers started pulling out from YouTube, which cost it no small amount of damage, both in money and in reputation.
This new ad-supported strategy that Ad Age reported could be its way out of that mess. The selection of titles includes, of course, vetted Hollywood films so there’s no risk of ads being associated with questionable content. Advertisers might even be able to sponsor selected titles in the future, allowing for options like exclusive screenings.
That all depends, however, on how studios warm up to the idea of distributing on YouTube, says director of product management Rohit Dhawan. At the moment, digital isn’t even on studios’ usual chain that go from cinemas to DVD to TV. But with YouTube’s massive audience and growing presence of smart TVs, it might be something that Hollywood can’t afford to ignore for long.