As promised, YouTube is making its original series and specials free to all comers, the online video portal said Thursday.
The service’s biggest hit, Cobra Kai, is kicking off the effort. Starting Thursday, viewers can binge the entire first season on the free, ad-supported platform for a limited time. Season two will become available for free on Sept. 11, with fans having a limited time to watch each episode for free with one episode becoming available weekly. Season three of the series is going into production shortly.
Cobra Kai boasts 55 million views for season one, and the first episode of season two improved upon the series premiere by 136%, making the Karate Kid follow-up the fastest YouTube Original to hit 20 million views in under a week. Cobra Kai is produced by Sony Pictures Television and written and executive produced by Josh Heald, Jon Hurtwitz and Hayden Schlossberg.
After Sept. 24, all logged-in YouTube users will be able to watch new original series and specials for free with ads. Those who remain subscribed to YouTube Premium will have all episodes of shows available to them immediately to binge, and also will be able to access bonus content when available.
According to YouTube, views of YouTube Originals grew more than 40% in 2019 compared to last year.
“Today, we are welcoming a global audience to enjoy our award-winning series and specials,” said Robert Kyncl, chief business officer, YouTube in a statement. “We see a tremendous opportunity to develop more region-specific content, particularly in Europe, Asia and Latin America, and will continue to partner with the biggest stars and creators in the world to share their stories and voices.”
“YouTube propels popular culture and our new slate reflects our unmatched opportunity to celebrate the best and brightest parts of the platform,” said Susanne Daniels, global head of original content, also in a statement. “We are now developing new series and specials centered on fan-favorite areas like music, personalities and life-long learning that will entertain and inspire a global audience.”
As part of the kickoff, YouTube also announced a slate of new series and specials, including five new original European series.
On Tuesday, Oct. 8, YouTube will premiere documentary special The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash, which premiered at SXSW. The 90-minute film is directed by Thom Zimny and produced by Thom Zimny, Glen Zipper, Sean Stuart and Jillian Apfelbaum. Frank Marshall, Ryan Suffern, Jeff Pollack, John Carter Cash, Josh Matas, Dan Friedkin, Bradley Thomas, Ryan Friedkin and Jasmine Daghighian serve as executive producers. The documentary is an Imperative Entertainment and Kennedy/Marshall production in association with Sutter Road Picture Company and The John R. Cash Trust.
YouTube also will start rolling out new series from Europe, including The School Of … in October, Virtually History in November and The Edge of Science in December. Later this year, the service plans to announce a new Latin America-focused slate at Brandcast Brazil and Mexico.
Also this fall, YouTube will return two other popular series, Liza on Demand and Impulse for their sophomore seasons.