YouTube’s Dropping Its Paywall for Originals – Here’s What It Means for Marketers



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With just over 30 days notice, YouTube Premium subscribers got an email from the company: when it came to Originals, they’d no longer be alone.

Delivering upon the promise they made to consumers at Brandcast in May, YouTube shared their plans to drop the paywall on YouTube Original programming beginning on September 24th. On that date, YouTube’s original shows, movies, and exclusive live events will become available to all YouTube users—regardless of subscription status. While this move has been viewed by many as a capitulation to the pressure of the highly competitive streaming wars, YouTube Chief Brand Officer Robert Kyncl views it another way: it aligns their Originals with the rest of YouTube’s strategy. “Everything is available free, and everything is available behind a paywall if there are certain features that you value in order to pay a subscription.”

For marketers, this is an opportunity to take advantage of ad support to target fans of these programs who previously may not have been paying for them. Fans of content creators like Liza Koshy and Gigi Gorgeous—who were creating both free and paywalled content for the site—will likely flock to these “new to them” series and films. Already popular offerings like Cobra Kai and Step Up: High Water can garner new viewers (and potential buyers, for you) with less of a commitment to the platform. And especially in light of many marketers’ voiced desire to increase their ad spends on YouTube, the fact that a new audience segment is opening should the decision even more attractive.

With that said, although Kyncl says that the strategy with Originals has “gone from being focused on driving subscriptions to aligning with our core business,” there are still perks to Premium access for these shows. When new shows are dropped, Premium viewers will have access to a full season at once, while ad-supported users will have to wait for weekly releases. Additionally, any director’s cut and other bonus content that shows opt to release, will be exclusive to Premium subscribers. But for those who elect to access these new shows with ads, the move confirms YouTube’s prevailing model…and, in the process, clarifies a new segment of prospective customers for marketers.

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