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YouTube Will Make ‘Cobra Kai,’ Other Originals Free to Watch Later This Year

YouTube is officially bringing all of its original series and specials — available for free, with ads — starting this year.

It’s shift in strategy for YouTube, which has previously made premium content available only to subscribers of YouTube Premium, which costs $11.99 monthly in the U.S. In some cases, however, YouTube will selectively window shows on the free, ad-supported side of the platform.

YouTube last fall revealed its intent to release its premium originals for free viewing, under what it calls a “Single Slate” strategy.

Now it has some details: The free-to-watch shows from YouTube will include the first two seasons of “Cobra Kai,” YouTube’s popular series that continues the story of the “Karate Kid,” beginning this fall — and which it just renewed for season 3. For two weeks, from Aug. 29 to Sept. 11, YouTube will make all of “Cobra Kai” season 1 available for free. Then on Sept. 11, YouTube will serve up the second season of “Cobra Kai” globally for free, with new episodes released weekly.

“For today’s viewers, primetime is personal and our content resonates so strongly due to the diversity and richness of our unmatched library and platform capabilities,” YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl said at the Brandcast event for ad execs Thursday in New York. “While every other media company is building a paywall, we are headed in the opposite direction.”

According to YouTube, its originals amassed over 2.5 billion views across 50 shows last year — and it’s hoping the free-window strategy boosts views even more.

YouTube said it will announce additional free ad-supported premiere dates for other programming at a later date, including supernatural drama “Impulse” and comedy “Liza On Demand,” starring digital star Liza Koshy. Other originals that have been stashed behind the paywall include “Step Up: High Water,” based on the dance-movie franchise.

For YouTube, the Single Slate is an effort to better monetize its original productions through ads — across the site’s massive 2 billion-plus monthly users. It’s also part of its refocusing originals on music, learning and personality-driven projects and away from scripted fare, which may not have been delivering the hoped-for payback in driving subscriptions to YouTube Premium. YouTube recently canceled multiple scripted shows, including “Champaign ILL,” “Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television,” “Sideswiped,” “Do You Want to See a Dead Body,” “Overthinking With Kat & June,” “Youth & Consequences” and “Origin.”

YouTube scripted originals include “Liza on Demand” and “Impulse,” both of which have been renewed for second seasons and are slated to premiere this fall, initially on YouTube Premium.

The half-hour “Liza On Demand” will return with a 10-episode run following the chaotic misadventures of Liza (Liza Koshy) and her roommates Oliver (Travis Coles) and Harlow (Kimiko Glenn) as Liza takes on various tasks and odd jobs while trying to get ahead in the gig economy. The series is produced by Above Average, founded in 2012 by Lorne Michaels’ Broadway Video.

“Impulse” stars Maddie Hasson as Henrietta “Henry” Cole, a rebellious 16-year-old girl who discovers she has the extraordinary ability to teleport, and her newfound power confirms her conviction that she really was different from everybody else — but it now makes her the focus of those who want to control her. The series is produced by Universal Content Productions, Hypnotic, and showrunner Lauren LeFranc.

Other YouTube announcements at Brandcast included a deal teased with Justin Bieber for a special project premiering next year, a renewal of Kevin Hart’s “What the Fit?” for season 3, and a deal to live-stream the Lollapalooza music festival this summer.

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