YouTube is adding free TV shows and movies to stream, but there’s a catch

YouTube has reduced the price of many movies and TV shows to $0.00 in the United States. Most of them are older titles and franchises, but there are a few treasures among the selections like Hell’s Kitchen, Legally Blondes, which was just added this month, and the Sandlot franchise.

The company, which announced the new content library Wednesday in a blog post, says it will add up to 100 titles to the free selection each week.

At the time of writing, there are 360 movies and 100 shows to stream for free with ads including hits from Lionsgate, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros., and more. On YouTube on any device, just go to the “movies and shows” section on the left-hand side, and “free” shows and movies will appear under your “keep watching” selections.

Anything available in high resolution will be available to stream in 1080p and up to 5.1 surround sound as long as your setup supports it. Of course, you will still be able to rent or purchase certain titles to stream ad-free, and these will appear in your library of purchased items.

Analysis: Who doesn’t love free stuff?

These may not be the newest or best selections, but our biggest problem in the modern first world is the fragmentation of movies and shows among countless streaming services that are a headache to keep track of. An ever-expanding, easy-to-access library of free movies and shows could be ideal for everyone, and surely a star at parties too.

In its press release, YouTube also gave us a stat: over 135 million people were watching YouTube on smart TVs in December 2021. That’s a pretty massive number and a potential audience for these new free offerings. This library of free shows and movies could increase that audience.

The fact that Youtube is integrated into billions of smart phones and TVs also means that the company will reap a lot more ad revenue as people stream the classic shows and movies.

As for us, the people who have to watch these ads, it’s not much different from what we already experience with most YouTube content. Longer videos almost always have interstitials – and that’s for content that isn’t a highly produced sitcom or classic movie.

A brief sample of some of the newer libraries (tested in Chrome’s incognito mode) found pre-roll ads that were thankfully skippable and mid-roll ads also skippable. Surprisingly, no banner ads. However, experiences may vary depending on the content.

Not terrible, and we suspect those looking for gratuitous moments of Gordon Ramsay yelling at weeping chefs will find a few commercial breaks worth it.

Christy J. Olson