YouTube's Original Content Soon To Be Ad-Supported and Free
By Iris Hearn
Starting September 24th, YouTube’s original programming will move from premium member-only access to ad-supported shows.
YouTube Originals are YouTube-backed original scripted shows, music, reality television, documentaries, and more.
Previously, this content could only be accessed with a YouTube Premium membership. Now, Premium members will still be able to enjoy these shows ad-free, while non-members will be able to watch with ad breaks. It’s currently unclear if these ads will be skippable or not.
This change comes after a larger shift in YouTube’s video strategy. The platform stopped taking pitches for scripted shows last November in an effort to place more focus on music, personality, and learning content (i.e., what people go on YouTube for).
YouTube’s decision to offer this content ad-free brings opportunities for advertisers to capture new audiences on the platform. Additionally, it suggests that scripted-style television shows may not work as well on social media as they do on paid streaming platforms.
Opportunities for marketers
YouTube’s original series feature many familiar faces that already have large followings on their own YouTube channels, like Liza Koshy, PewDiePie, and Roman Atwood.
The idea behind YouTube Premium was that if people’s favorite creators were making content on the platform, YouTube would be able to attract new paying members.
Clearly, given the volume of premium content produced, this strategy worked to a degree, but ultimately didn’t have the business impact YouTube wanted. It’s not that people weren’t interested in the content, but likely that they didn’t want to pay $18/month when their favorite creators already had plenty of free content on the same platform.
However, because it’s been gated for so long, it’s likely that those who held off from paying for the membership (e.g., me) will flock to the original content when it is opened for all on September 24th.
This expected increase in traffic means that advertisers will have a larger audience — and that YouTube can charge accordingly. Given that YouTube already has the broadest ad reach of any ad-supported video service, this is a big opportunity for marketers to get more eyes on their ads.
Additionally, because much of this content is multi-episode series (some with multiple seasons), advertisers can not only reach more users, but can also hold their attention longer as they come back for more episodes.
Due to this news, marketers should consider allocating more ad spend to YouTube on September 24th and days following.
Do scripted series work on social media?
While this shift will likely provide benefits to advertisers in the short-term, it’s worth looking at the big picture of how social media platforms should approach video content — and how your business should approach social media.
After seeing the success streaming platforms like Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have had with their own original series, it only makes sense that social media platforms would want to hop on the trend.
We’ve already seen Facebook and Snapchat add this type of content to their own platforms, with Facebook looking to expand to include even more original series.
However, considering that YouTube has been doing this for a few years now and is deciding to end its scripted shows, it begs the question: If this didn’t work for YouTube, will this style work for other non-video centric social media platforms?
While YouTube will still produce ad-supported shows, it’s shifted into a style that better mirrors the best aspects of the platform: personalities, music, and learning.
The reason original scripted content works on Netflix or HBO is that people already use the service to watch similar style content, so it fits right into their model.
If social media platforms want to see success from producing original content, they’ll need to approach it in the same way. You can’t force users to change the way they like to use your platform — you can, however, create features that add to their experience.
For this reason, I think that YouTube’s new premium content approach has a good chance of being successful since the platform is now creating high-quality content targeted around what users come to the platform for. This is mutually beneficial for the platform’s bottom like and its advertisers alike.
It all comes back to your customers!
This shift shows marketers yet again that no matter what, all strategies should come back to what your customers want and need from your service.
Your prospects and customers may have a lot of things they like, but it doesn’t mean your service is the right solution to give it to them.
At the end of the day, it all comes down to focusing on what your business can do for your customers, and then perfecting those niche set of services so you’re the clear choice.
Wondering where to begin?