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Cobra Kai for free? YouTube originals reportedly ditching subscriptions, shifting to ads

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Nov 27, 2018, 8:05 PM EST

Only days after debuting a Free to Watch movies section supported by ads instead of subscriptions, YouTube may be heading in the same direction for Cobra Kai, Impulse, Origin, and all the rest of its original content.

The Wrap reports that YouTube is planning to ditch its premium subscription model —which has hidden the immensely popular Cobra Kai and other originally-produced programming behind a pay wall — and instead take Daniel LaRusso and Johnny Lawrence’s feud public, by making all of it completely free to watch. 

The catch, of course, is lacing all that free content with unskippable advertising — something millions of YouTubers already do anytime they dial up frequently-viewed free cat videos, movie trailers, or video game tutorials. But the service is betting it's a trade-off that viewers will be willing to live with.

“As we look to 2019, we will continue to invest in scripted programming and shift to make our YouTube Originals ad-supported to meet the growing demand of a more global fanbase,” a YouTube spokesperson told TheWrap. “This next phase of our Originals strategy will expand the audience of our YouTube Original creators and provide advertisers with incredible content that reaches the YouTube Generation.”

Cobra Kai has proven a breakout success for YouTube. Supported by a free-to-view debut window back in May, its first episode has been watched more than 51 million times, and the Karate Kid continuation series quickly received the green light for a second season.

As for its overall approach to in-house entertainment, YouTube indeed plans to ramp up its lineup of original content in the coming year, with a reported 50 new shows already in development, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Other than YouTube’s mention of a 2019 rollout, the Google-owned platform didn’t disclose the specific start date when YouTube Premium will give way to its free, ad-based successor. As the streaming wars continue to heat up, though, at least there’s one less subscription plan that’ll be competing for those monthly dollars.