Will YouTube TV shows remind you of the Netflix experience?

YouTube looks more and more like netflix ( NFLX -0.44% ) everyday. In its latest step towards emulating the streaming veteran’s style, YouTube now offers free access to dozens of TV shows.

However, Alphabetit’s ( GOOG 0.51% ) ( GOOGLE 0.41% ) The service will never quite replicate the Netflix experience. The two video services are too fundamentally different in many ways.

What’s new?

Alphabet’s massive video-sharing service has just added 76 TV shows to the lineup of content that can be watched for free by anyone accessing YouTube from a US Internet address.

This is not original new content at all. YouTube signed licensing deals for shows featuring old-school classics like two seasons each The Lone Ranger (1949) and Hopalong Cassidy (1937). You will also find titles from the 1980s such as 21 jump street and highway to paradise alongside newer fares, including Heartland and The mediator with Ice-T – both produced within the last decade.

There’s not much overlap with Netflix’s catalog. The only series I found on both was Heartland, but even for this shared title, the offers are different. Netflix offers all 13 seasons and is eagerly waiting for the 14th to become available on April 1. YouTube only offers the first three seasons.

Prior to this week, YouTube already offered over 1,500 movies from various studios. As is usually the case with licensed content portfolios, this list of titles changes over time. YouTube says “up to 100” new titles become available each week, replacing other films that are removed when their licensing agreements expire.

On the business side, you can watch these movies and shows in several ways:

  • You can watch any of these titles for free with the occasional commercial break.
  • Some shows are also available for purchase, with little choice in terms of video quality for newer shows. This way you won’t see any advertisements.
  • YouTube didn’t mention this option, but I didn’t encounter any commercials when I logged into my YouTube Premium account.

Image source: Getty Images.

Compare and nuance

YouTube therefore monetizes its professionally produced content in several ways. Two of them should look pretty normal to most YouTube viewers, while the weirder option of buying shows by season reminds me of pay-per-view content on cable TV. Also, you have to be very careful in order to notice the call option.

In addition, at the end of each season, the video window is filled with a selection of fairly recent feature films, which you can buy or rent with just a few clicks. If this sounds familiar, you’ve probably used Amazon Prime Video, where every click seems to bring you one step closer to buying something not included in the subscription for free.

It’s a far cry from Netflix’s simpler setup. As long as you pay your monthly subscription fee, you have full access to everything the video service has to offer. There are no commercial breaks and the Netflix catalog is packed with a wide range of original titles you won’t find anywhere else – often in award-winning quality.

Netflix is ​​a premium service for the discerning consumer. YouTube wants to grab a slice of this sweet revenue pie, but it was never designed to deliver a premium experience. So the TV shows available for free on YouTube will never really compare to Netflix. This service was set up with a different target audience, where the convenience and ease of use of a higher quality service is replaced by lower prices and a less engaging experience.

And YouTube doesn’t take the effort too seriously. Streaming media services that offer a combination of ad-supported and subscription services always try to shift free riders from ad viewing to the more trusted subscription channel. In this case, YouTube didn’t even mention the benefits of having a premium YouTube account.

What did we learn today?

Adding a few more free TV shows to YouTube isn’t likely to move the needle for the platform’s premium subscriber count, nor for the parent company’s top line. Indeed, this latest improvement to YouTube’s offerings serves to highlight the qualities that keep Netflix ahead of the pack.

No one else offers a stripped down subscription service for video streaming entertainment. The temptation to add a combination of ad spots, pay-per-view offers, and other options that might snatch a few extra pennies from each subscriber always becomes too great. And that’s why Netflix continues to win in the long run.

This article represents the opinion of the author, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a high-end consulting service Motley Fool. We are heterogeneous! Challenging an investing thesis — even one of our own — helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and wealthier.

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