Here’s what other goodies it includes, and how it will affect your regular ad-supported YouTube experience:
YouTube has announced YouTube Red, their new premium content service. The subscription service will launch October 28, and will be priced at $9.99/month (except for those who sign up through iOS, where Apple’s store tacks on an extra $3 to make it $12.99).
The question most fans will be asking is obviously how this will change their normal viewing habits. YouTube was careful to tout the continued strong growth of their regular, ad-supported content, and they made a point of casting YouTube Red as an above-and-beyond sort of offering. Vanilla YouTube isn’t going away, and to their credit it does seem like YouTube has a sense of the massive user backlash that could come from locking away traditionally free content behind a pay wall.
In fact, for those concerned about YouTube trying to force adoption of YouTube Red, YouTube offered this rebuttal: If every single household in America (currently the only territory YouTube Red is launching in, though it’s expected to expand in the near future) that has cable bought a YouTube Red subscription (basically the biggest success the platform could possibly have in its wildest dreams), that would still be just 100 million subscriptions compared to over a billion YouTube users who currently see ad-supported videos. At least for the time being, YouTube is saying it’s not in their own financial interest to try to lock content away behind an ad-free service.
YouTube is pitching the service as a combination video/audio subscription, in addition to a way to watch video ad-free. Google Play music, which already runs subscribers $9.99/month, is being packaged in with YouTube Red, and current Google Play subscribers will automatically get YouTube Red as well.
YouTube also isn’t locking full channels behind the premium YouTube Red paywall (or at least they haven’t announced any such intentions yet); rather, they’re working with some of the most popular YouTubers to develop additional premium content for the YouTube Red service. New series from PewDiePie, Joey Graceffa, the Fine Brothers, and others were announced, along with feature films from Lily Singh (a documentary of her recent tour) and Rooster Teeth (the comedy Lazer Team). Although YouTube wouldn’t say they’d never bring in outside content for YouTube Red (a-la-Netflix or Amazon Prime Video), their focus right now is on developing content solely with top YouTubers.
One of the coolest features of YouTube Red might be the new ability to use YouTube in an offline mode. YouTube didn’t offer many details, but YouTube Red subscribers will be able to download videos and music to their phones (both iOS and Android) for offline play. I was told there won’t be download limits outside of what a user’s phone can hold, but an online check will have to be made every 30 days for videos and music to remain playable offline.
YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said that the content creators who make up “99%” of all watch time on YouTube have already put their OK on the YouTube Red model. He also said that revenues from YouTube Red subscriptions would be almost entirely passed on to the content creators.
All told, it seems like a smart play for YouTube that should be more palatable than it might seem at first to those of us who are avid YouTube users: they get to double down on user interaction while also using additional revenue to provide higher grade content that bridges the gap between amateur YouTubers and professional-grade content.