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From 'RoboCop' to 'Ascension': YouTube will stream dozens of genre movies and shows for free

No Netflix or Disney+ subscription? No problem!

By Josh Weiss
YouTube Silhouette GETTY

No Netflix, Prime Video, or Disney+ subscription? No problem! If you live in the United States, YouTube is about to start offering dozens of films and television shows from major studios at no cost to the viewer (with the caveat of a few ads here and there, of course).

Up to a hundred more choices will become available each week. It's a pretty clever move in a time when the streaming landscape is inundated with enough services to boggle the mind. In addition to the difficulty of navigating an ever-growing lineup of platforms, audience members aren't exactly eager to shell out more money for yet another entertainment catalogue they have to keep track of.

What's more: YouTube needs a way to attract more viewers, now that the company is no longer in the business of producing original content. Hit shows like Cobra Kai, for instance, were originally housed under the YouTube Red/Premium banner, before they were scooped up by major competitors such as Netflix.

"More people are choosing to experience YouTube on the big screen with friends and family," the video platform announced in a press release Wednesday. "In fact, according to Nielsen, YouTube reached over 135 million people on connected TVs in the U.S. in December 2021. YouTube is at the forefront of the consumer shift to CTV viewership as the top ad-supported streaming platform with the content people enjoy and the creators they love."

From a genre perspective, you've got titles like Reign of Fire, Batman: The Movie (starring Adam West and Burt Ward), The Island, RoboCop, A.I.: Artificial Intelligence, Little Shop of Horrors, Paranormal Activity, The Last Exorcism, The Saint, The Lone Ranger, Ascension, The War of the Worlds (BBC miniseries), Wilfred, Masters of Science Fiction, Space: 1999, and more.

The YouTube release continues: "To enhance the viewing experience, we’re unveiling brand new streamlined navigation and immersive banner art. The rich visuals and new menus will help you more easily find your favorite TV shows from the comfort of the couch, whether you choose to rent, purchase, or watch for free with ads. Many of these titles are also now available in high definition 1080p with 5.1 surround sound audio on supported devices."

In a letter sent to creators at the start of this year, Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl, announced the imminent shutdown of YouTube Originals. "Going forward, we will only be funding programs that are part of our Black Voices and YouTube Kids Funds," they wrote. "We will honor our commitment for already contracted shows in progress and creators who are involved with those shows should expect to hear from us directly in the coming days. Finally, I want to thank you, the creators, for partnering with us to create innovative and inspirational stories and look forward to growing your business on YouTube and beyond."