Update, August 16, 2019 (3:17 PM ET): In a statement sent out by YouTube (via Android Central), the video streaming service revealed the start date for when YouTube Originals will be free for all to watch (just with ads). That date is September 24.
Any Originals released after that date will be free on YouTube. Previously, only subscribers of YouTube Premium could watch Originals. Premium subscribers will still have ad-free access to Originals and will also see access to an entire new season as soon as it launches. Free-tier viewers will need to wait for each episode to air.
In many cases, behind-the-scenes videos and other bonus features for Originals will remain exclusive to Premium subscribers.
Premium costs $11.99 for an individual. It’s unclear if YouTube will now see drop-offs in subscriber numbers with this new offering of free Originals.
Original article, May 3, 2019 (11:35 AM ET): YouTube has a slate of original programs it calls YouTube Originals. As of today, you can only watch those programs if you pay for a YouTube Premium account, which currently costs $11.99 per month.
In the near future, this business strategy will change and YouTube Originals will be free for everyone to watch, as confirmed by YouTube’s Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl (via TechCrunch).
However, anyone who doesn’t pay for Premium will have ad interruptions when viewing YouTube Originals. In addition, the shows will only be free to watch for a temporary period before presumably going back behind the paywall.
“While every other media company is racing to put their content behind the paywall, we’re headed in the opposite direction by making our original content available for free,” Kyncl said at YouTube’s annual Brandcast event. Brandcast is geared mostly towards advertisers and allows YouTube to inform them of its future plans, current strategies, etc.
One of the most popular YouTube Originals programs is Cobra Kai, a follow-up to The Karate Kid film series centered on the dojo where Daniel’s nemesis Johnny Lawrence trains. The first season of Cobra Kai will become free to watch from August 29 to September 11, after which season two will be available. A third season was just given the green light.
Unfortunately, YouTube didn’t clarify when the Premium paywall would lift for other Originals. We’ve reached out to the company for clarification and will update this article if we should hear back.
At Brandcast, YouTube also confirmed it is working on an Originals program with Justin Bieber, but it didn’t give any more information beyond that.