YouTube Renews 'Cobra Kai,' Preps Comedy's Ad-Supported Release

Cobra Kai-season 2-Publicity Still-H 2019

YouTube has ordered a third season of Cobra Kai. But before the Karate Kid sequel returns with more episodes, the streaming video platform is hoping to attract a bigger audience for the show. 

On Sept. 11, YouTube will make the first two seasons of Cobra Kai available to watch for free with ads. Episodes of season two will be released weekly. Previously, those seasons were only accessible for people who paid $12 per month for subscription service YouTube Premium. 

All of YouTube's original series will now have free, ad-supported windows going forward, including the drama Impulse and the comedy Liza On Demand, which will debut new seasons this fall. 

"While every other media company is building a paywall, we are headed in the opposite direction and now have more opportunities than ever to partner with advertisers and share our critically-acclaimed originals with our global audience," YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl said Thursday in a statement ahead of the company's annual Brandcast event in New York.

The Google-owned streaming platform first introduced its ad-free subscription video product (originally called YouTube Red) in 2015, announcing that it was buying up a slate of TV shows and films to bolster the offering. Then, in 2017, the company revealed plans to also offer ad-supported originals like the workout show Kevin Hart: What the Fit, which has also been renewed for a third season, and the music competition series Best.Cover.Ever. At the time, Kyncl noted that premium, ad-supported programs "are becoming more and more rare" in the age of subscription streaming. 

Amid YouTube's move to a this dual distribution model, the streamer has shifted its programming strategy away from big-budget scripted series. Current scripted series like Cobra Kai are continuing, but new development is more focused on unscripted, star-driven projects like What the Fit. As a result, YouTube canceled several scripted projects, including Ryan Hansen Solves Crimes on Television and Do You Want to See a Dead Body, last month. 

On Thursday evening, YouTube also unveiled a slate of unscripted projects, including a top-secret Justin Bieber project and a Paris Hilton documentary, which reflect its programming direction going forward. 

YouTube released the second season of Cobra Kai, which features original stars Ralph Macchio and William Zabka, on April 24 for Premium subscribers. The first episode of the new season, which was made available for free to entice viewers, has racked up nearly 23.2 million views in its first eight days. Meanwhile, ad-supported original What the Fit has received more than 274 million views since its 2018 debut. It is those performances that have made YouTube bullish about its new dual distribution strategy. New seasons of both shows will premiere in 2020.