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YouTube now streaming free movies to lure you away from Netflix

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The new plan prepares the company for a competitive market

Orion Pictures/Paramount Pictures

The next phase of the streaming wars is upon us.

The juggernauts like Netflix, Amazon and Disney Plus (with Hulu in Disney’s back pocket) will duke it out for eyeball supremacy. Relative newcomers (WarnerMedia’s HBO-touting service, CBS All Access) will try to stake their claim. Boutique services (Criterion Collection, Crunchyroll) will buckle up for the ride. Facebook disruption will make us all upset about Facebook again.

Somewhere in it all, YouTube — with stiff competition from Twitch — is figuring out how to cater to Hollywood and its creators, who struggle with demonetization. Where does the legacy video platform wind up in all of this?

We’ll have to wait a few years for the answer, but in the meantime, YouTube is throwing every dart at the board to garner attention — including licensing a ton of movies to stream for free with ad breaks.

Like other ad-supported VOD services such as Tubi TV and Sony’s Crackle, YouTube hopes to bolster its iTunes-like movie and TV store with free-to-play options. This is all in addition to YouTube Red, the company’s premium content arm, which houses shows like Cobra Kai.

YouTube’s current movie selection includes The Terminator, Legally Blonde, Rocky (plus the sequels of varying quality), Monsters and a slew of martial arts films, American indies and documentaries. Rohit Dhawan, director of product management at YouTube, told AdAge that the company already plans to expand the selection.

According to the AdAge report, YouTube is not the only company looking to dominate the ad-supported VOD space. On top of Tubi and Crackle, Vudu — the movie app owned by Walmart — is also expanding, while Amazon hopes to launch its own selection of streamable titles.

The real winner: Whichever company figures out how to add 12 more hours to the day so we can catch up on everything.