YouTube Now Offers Full Seasons of TV Shows To Stream for Free

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Look out Pluto TV and Tubi: It seems YouTube is ready to join the free streaming TV party.

YouTube, which has long been known for viral, user-created video content, appears to be ready to try its hand as a free streaming source for full-length TV shows and movies.

The Google-owned streaming giant already has a popular paid live TV streaming service called YouTube TV, but it recently announced that it will be making full seasons of popular TV shows available for free on YouTube.

Team Clark has the details on how it works and what content already is available to stream for free.


YouTube Adds Full Seasons of TV Shows to Free Content Selection

YouTube announced on Wednesday, March 23, 2022, that it now offers full seasons of television shows for free to all users.

The library offers more than 4,000 full-length episodes of popular TV shows from yesteryear. There are commercial advertisements inserted intermittently throughout the content.

So, as is the norm with free streaming services, you’re trading your time and tolerance for commercials in exchange for the lack of a monthly subscription fee.

The content list includes some names you’ll probably recognize such as celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay and rapper-turned-actor Ice-T.

Here are some of the TV shows available to stream for free now:

  • Hell’s Kitchen
  • Kitchen Nightmares
  • Heartland
  • Unsolved Mysteries
  • 21 Jump Street
  • Wildfire
  • The Carol Burnett Show
  • The Dead Zone

If you didn’t know, YouTube already features a selection of more than 1,500 full-length movies available to stream for free.

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Some of the popular titles include:

  • The Sandlot
  • Gone in 60 Seconds
  • Legally Blonde
  • 10 Things I Hate About You
  • Dances with Wolves
  • Grumpy Old Men
  • Runaway Bride

How To Access Free TV Shows and Movies on YouTube

Finding the free section for content on YouTube’s apps is actually pretty easy.

To access the content from the YouTube app on your TV, you’ll simply need to access “Movies and shows” from the menu on the left side of your screen:

Stream full seasons of TV for free on YouTube
YouTube illustration

To access the content on a mobile phone, I used the following path on my iOS device:

  • Tap on the “Library” tab on the bottom right corner of your screen on the YouTube home screen.
  • Choose “Your movies and shows” from the menu that appears.
  • The menu that appears will default to a “Purchased” tab, but you’ll want to toggle to the “Browse” tab.
  • Once on the “Browse” tab, you should see “Free to watch movies” and “Free to watch shows” as options.
  • Tap on the desired type of content to scroll through the collection of free, ad-supported options.
YouTube free TV shows on an iPhone
YouTube’s free TV menu on an iPhone

To access the content from the YouTube website, you’ll simply need to access “Movies and shows” from the menu on the left side of your computer screen.

Free TV shows and movies on the YouTube website
YouTube.com

YouTube vs. Popular Free Streaming Services: How Does It Compare?

Prior to this announcement, Team Clark already considered YouTube as the top free streaming option for original content thanks to millions of creators producing content (both live and recorded) in nearly every potential topic of interest.

But YouTube was severely lacking in traditional movies and TV shows when compared to the other free streaming services on the market.

Does this announcement change that? Probably not right away, but it’s certainly a signal that Google could be a major player in the ad-supported streaming TV space in the very near future.

Content Library

YouTube still has a long way to go if it wants to catch up to The Roku Channel, Pluto TV or Tubi when it comes to the volume of movies and TV shows.

With several years’ headstart curating content options, these ad-supported services have libraries with thousands more titles available for free than what YouTube is offering at the moment.

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And, generally speaking, the quality of the available content is better, too. The Roku Channel has its own original TV series, and all three of the services mentioned above do a good job of rotating a few “newer” titles onto their services for a limited time.

The good news for YouTube users is simple, though: more content for zero dollars.

YouTube offers access to many popular titles for purchase or rental. All it would take is an agreement with the content providers and a strategy shift to start putting more of that content into the “free” column as an ad-supported stream.

How Bad Are the Ads?

This is where YouTube really could beat out the competition in ad-supported streaming.

It already has the infrastructure in place, both through Google’s ad services and YouTube’s existing video ad system, to make streaming old TV episodes lucrative without having to sell traditional, major advertising spots.

I decided to check out an episode Gordon Ramsey’s Hell’s Kitchen to see what the ad situation looked like on YouTube, and I was pleasantly surprised with what I found.

I was subjected to only two advertisements before the show began, and I was able to “skip” those ads after five seconds just like I would watching a YouTube video (see the right bottom corner below).

YouTube advertisement on a TV episode

After that, I was able to watch the entire 44-minute episode uninterrupted. That’s pretty impressive!

For comparison, here’s a look at the ad placements I experience on a typical half-hour sitcom on The Roku Channel.

Sitcoms had roughly half the commercial breaks as movies.

Each of those pre-planned commercial breaks was roughly 30 seconds long. So, in the end, I was experiencing about 2.5 minutes of advertising for 24 minutes of content.

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That’s still much better than traditional TV but not nearly as good as what I experienced with YouTube.


Final Thoughts

If you haven’t done so already, it might be time to throw YouTube into your free streaming rotation.

Not only will you get live streaming content and endless hours of archived content based on your interests, but now you’ll also have ad-supported access to free TV shows and movies.

The app is free to download on Android and Apple devices as well as most smart TVs and streaming dongles. Even if you can’t download it, you can access the content on the web at YouTube.com.

Are you ok trading commercials for a FREE subscription? Tell us in our Clark.com Community.


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