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YouTube confirms a test of a new hub for free, ad-supported streaming channels

YouTube is officially running a test that allows select viewers in the U.S. to watch free ad-supported (FAST) channels via a dedicated hub on the video platform. Users that have access to the experiment will find FAST linear channels in the Movies and TV storefront.

In a shared statement to TechCrunch, a company spokesperson said, “YouTube is the only place where viewers can find everything they want, and we're always looking for new ways to provide viewers a central destination to more easily find, watch, and share the content that matters most to them. We are currently running a small experiment that allows viewers to watch free ad-supported linear channels alongside the wide variety of content we offer on the platform.”

The company is reportedly talking with various entertainment companies about featuring their titles in the new hub, according to The Wall Street Journal, which first broke the news. YouTube is apparently testing with various content suppliers, such as A+E Networks, Cinedigm Corp., Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and FilmRise, WSJ wrote. The hub could launch later this year.

YouTube declined to comment to TechCrunch on the launch date and which media partners it has chosen to test with.

This experiment is part of the company’s goal to give viewers all their favorite content in one destination, like content from creators as well as traditional movies and TV shows, sports and more. The FAST hub will put YouTube in better competition with Roku, Pluto TV and Tubi, among other players in the space.

Whenever YouTube rolls out its FAST channels hub, it will likely do extremely well as it is already a top streaming service worldwide. The company announced in November that it surpassed 80 million global subscribers across YouTube Premium and YouTube Music.

Back in March 2022, YouTube launched free, ad-supported TV shows, giving U.S. viewers access to more than 4,000 titles. The new offering was an expansion of its free, ad-supported movies, which includes more than 1,500 movies from partners like Disney Media & Entertainment Distribution, Warner Bros., Paramount Pictures, Lionsgate, FilmRise and more. Users get up to 100 new titles each week.

More recently, YouTube rolled out a Primetime Channels feature, which allows viewers to subscribe to 30+ streaming services, including Paramount+, Showtime, Shudder, Starz, AMC+ and more.

YouTube became the winner of the NFL Sunday Ticket package last month, which will be available as an add-on to YouTube TV and through YouTube Primetime Channels.