The streaming video platform YouTube quietly rolled out a new feature over the past few weeks: full-length, ad-supported movies.
The movies are part of an exclusive deal the company signed with MGM. Among those now streaming: "Terminator," "Legally Blonde," "The Pink Panther" films and "Rocky."
The movies are available through YouTube Movies, which previously focused on movie rentals and purchases. They feature pre-roll advertising and a number of ad breaks. As of this writing, "Rocky" featured 10 interstitial ad breaks.
YouTube’s flexible advertising model could potentially enable other options, like allowing one advertiser to sponsor an entire film. As with YouTube’s other channels, the movies will be ad-free to subscribers of YouTube Premium.
What YouTube has going for it is its massive scale.
The company says it has 1.8 billion logged-in users per month and has become the de facto home for free video content online. Many consumers still associate YouTube with user-generated content, short-form video from creators, or music videos. The company is clearly trying to remedy that association.
In addition, classic movies are a safe, reliable place to advertise. Marketers know exactly what they are getting. With YouTube having faced a number of brand-safety controversies over the last year, adding brand-safe content to its portfolio is one solution to the problem.
Free, ad-supported movies may be fresh to YouTube, but they have become one of the staple features of Vudu, the streaming video service owned by Walmart. Vudu also has a deal with MGM, covering the same library of films. It also has other deals with other studios. It isn’t clear whether YouTube will pursue similar arrangements.
In addition, other free streaming services, such as Crackle and Tubi, offer feature-length movies, supported by advertising. While ad-free options like Netflix and Amazon are growing in popularity, companies are betting there is still a market for free alternatives as consumers get subscription fatigue.