It’s not an exaggeration to say that YouTube gives users the world. Millions upon millions of hours of footage of anything and everything have been uploaded to the site, with more being added every minute. If you want to watch news coverage from three weeks ago, a Taiwanese sitcom from 1987, or a vlog from your favorite YouTuber uploaded 30 seconds ago, YouTube has you covered. All it asks in exchange is your time. Stare at an ad for 5, 10, or more recently 30 seconds and you’re free to watch whatever you want. However, that’s all about to change as YouTube makes plans to roll out an adless subscription-powered service by the end of this year.
The plan hasn’t officially been announced, but YouTube has already started reaching out to its biggest assets, creators, about the program. Bloomberg news obtained a copy of the letter YouTube is sending to top creators, which links that ad-free subscription option to a wave of other recent YouTube innovations like the Kids and Families app and Beta version of streaming service Music Key. It’s worth mentioning that both of those products have come under fire by critics in recent months. So will fans warm to the idea of buying the YouTube cow when they’ve already spent 10 years getting the viral video milk for free?
“Subscription” has been a major buzzword in the new media world recently. The emergence of subscription-based services like video platform Vessel and streaming music source Tidal have got fans and creators talking. Both services make a similar promise: pay a monthly subscription in exchange for early or exclusive access to content you love. It’s a novel idea that allows both services to pay video creators and musicians what they think they’re worth.
In their letter, YouTube also equates its subscription service with bigger bottom lines for creators. “By creating a new paid offering, we’ll generate a new source of revenue that will supplement your fast-growing advertising revenue.” It’s a smart offer to make considering the luck Vessel has had luring YouTube creators off the platform with promises of more cash, but it all depends on fan buying in. So far, it’s too soon to say how audiences will react. Both Vessel and Tidal have attracted attention, but they’re also handing out free subscriptions left and right, making it difficult to tell how many users will stick around when the bill finally arrives.
YouTube, however, has tried getting people to pay for content once before. In 2013 the video giant rolled out paid subscriptions for its top performing channels at the time. The program wasn’t a hit with users and though a few notable exceptions exist (news network The Young Turks continues to use subscriptions to great effect), most paid channels faded away or went back to being solely ad driven. The new model is more simple — one price for the whole platform ad free. How much would you pay for the privilege of never have to press the SKIP button again?
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