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YouTube Reportedly Testing Free, Ad-Supported Channels Hub

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YouTube Movies & TV Hub

YouTube is now testing a new free TV channels hub, according to a recent report, suggesting YouTube is planning to delve further into live TV. While YouTube already offers a paid live TV service through YouTube TV, the current suggestion is that the standard YouTube app is going to become another way for homes to watch free live TV channels. 

YouTube recently made a fairly big move into on-demand streaming with the launch of Primetime Channels. Similar to Amazon’s Prime Video Channels and The Roku Channel’s Premium Subscriptions, Primetime Channels makes it possible for YouTube users to sign up to various paid third-party streaming services through the main YouTube app. On the free side of things, YouTube’s Movies & TV hub does already offer a selection of movies that are available to watch completely for free, albeit with ads.

As somewhat of an extension of these features, the latest report suggest YouTube is already testing a hub of free ad-supported streaming TV channels, also known as FAST channels. According to the Wall Street Journal report, some of the content providers taking part in the testing phase include Lions Gate Entertainment Corp., A+E Networks, Cinedigm Corp and FilmRise. 

At present it remains unclear how big the testing group is or who is included. However, it is now uncommon for Google and YouTube to trial new features and services with a select group of users before rolling them out more widely. Speaking of which, and “according to people familiar with the discussions,” the suggestion is that YouTube’s free channels hub could see a much broader launch later this year.

Whether or not YouTube does launch a free FAST hub, it does make sense for the company to be looking into this market. The free ‘with ads’ section of the streaming industry has been growing rapidly of late, with services like Pluto TV and Tubi seeing great success with the model. Likewise, YouTube TV has grown into a dominant player in the paid live TV streaming market, so it makes sense to also now be looking at the free side of the market as well. In a bid to keep its paid and free offerings separate, it would also make sense for any FAST channels to become available within the main YouTube app and not the YouTube TV app. 

John Finn

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