You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

YouTube Rings in Era of Ad-Supported Originals By Making ‘Cobra Kai’ Free to Watch

YouTube is following through on its promise to take down its paywall for some of its original content, starting with its hit show “Cobra Kai.” The entire first season of the series, which is based on the “Karate Kid” story, became available to watch for free to the service’s global audience Thursday.

Season 2 of the show will be made available for free starting on September 11. YouTube first announced plans to liberate “Cobra Kai” from its paywall in May, when it outlined a new strategy to refocus its original content efforts on ad-supported viewing.

YouTube previously only served up a few episodes of “Cobra Kai” for free, but those were resonating with the service’s audience. The first episode of season 1 has garnered some 55 million views to date, and the premiere episode of season 2 hit 20 million views in just 6 days, according to the streaming service.

Going forward, YouTube will release originals for free as well, but keep director’s cuts and bonus content behind the paywall.

“Today, we are welcoming a global audience to enjoy our award-winning series and specials,” said YouTube’s chief business officer Robert Kyncl 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.”

Popular on Variety

As part of these efforts to produce a more global slate of originals, YouTube announced 5 original European shows Thursday. These include “Virtually History,” a 30-minute VR documentary that commemorates the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin wall that will premiere in October, and the BBC-produced “The Edge of Science,” which will premiere in December. A Slate of Latin American shows is scheduled to be announced in the coming months.

YouTube also announced plans to release the documentary “The Gift: The Journey of Johnny Cash” for free on the service on October 8, and bring back its original shows “Liza on Demand” and “Impulse” for second seasons in the coming 2 months.

YouTube’s new paywall-free release strategy for its original content can be seen as a response to both the growing popularity of ad-supported viewing as well as its inability to establish its premium tier as a meaningful competitor to other paid streaming services. The Google subsidiary announced last year that it was rebranding its YouTube Red subscription service as YouTube Premium, which combines ad-free video viewing with access to its YouTube Music streaming service.

However, YouTube hasn’t given up on its paywall for original content entirely: The service is still windowing individual episodes of new shows, giving users who aren’t paying for YouTube Premium only a limited time to watch them. Premium subscribers on the other hand will have access to entire seasons to binge on.

More Digital

  • Hulu Hopes to Make Ads Part

    Hulu Hopes to Make Ads Part of Your Binge Session

    If you just can’t keep yourself from watching another episode of “The Handmaid’s Tale” or “PEN15,” then Hulu has an ad for you. The streaming-video hub is starting a trial run of new commercials aimed specifically at binge-watchers, which the company defines as subscribers who watch three or more episodes of the same series consecutively. [...]

  • Facebook

    Facebook Pledges $130 Million to Fund Content Oversight Board as It Hits Delays

    Facebook announced an initial commitment of $130 million to launch its new Oversight Board, which is designed as a way for users to appeal the social giant’s content decisions, but the entity is behind schedule with initial board members to be announced in 2020. The Oversight Board — which has been dubbed Facebook’s “Supreme Court” [...]

  • Rey (Daisy Ridley) in STAR WARS:

    Amazon Releases Secret 'Star Wars: Rise of Skywalker' Exclusive Video

    Amazon released a special behind-the-scenes look at “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” in partnership with Disney and Lucasfilm, in order to — what else? — sell stuff to fans of the galaxy far, far away. The ecommerce giant debuted the Star Wars video Thursday (Dec. 12) exclusively on Amazon.com and Fire TV, with secret [...]

  • Jay-Z

    Tidal Gets Dolby Atmos Music, Jay-Z to Release Catalog in Immersive Audio Format

    Music streaming service Tidal has partnered with Dolby to bring Dolby Atmos Music tracks to its Tidal HiFi tier. This makes Tidal the second music service to support the high-end format. For now, support is limited to certain Android devices. Consumers may know Dolby Atmos as a surround-sound audio format for movies, which is being [...]

  • Netflix-logo-N-icon

    Netflix Tests Discounted Subscription Plans in India

    Netflix is testing discounted plans in India for some long-term subscribers. The plans are only available to selected new subscribers and not existing ones. While signing up, new users may be offered a 20% discount on a three-month subscription, a 30% discount on a six-month term and a 50% discount on a 12-month contract. These [...]

  • Editorial Use onlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    YouTube Institutes Stricter Harassment Policy, Won't Exempt Public Figures

    YouTube has promised to ramp up its fight against hate and harassment: The Google-owned video service announced changes to its harassment policy Wednesday, which include a ban on implicit threats of violence and insults that target someone for their race, gender expression or sexual orientation. “We will not tolerate harassment,” said YouTube’s global head of [...]

  • Janko Roettgers, Jeremy Legg, Vicky Colf,

    Listen: Inside HBO Max's Streaming Strategy With WarnerMedia CTO Jeremy Legg

    HBO Max may not be streaming to consumers until May 2020, but for Jeremy Legg, the hard work has already begun. The WarnerMedia chief technology officer is deep into the development of parent company AT&T’s highest priority next year. While rival efforts from Disney and Apple are already in market, he envisions launching a product [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content