YouTube has confirmed rumours that it is to launch a monthly paid subscription service. The service will allow users to watch videos advert free instead of sitting through the usual 30 second or 5 second skip-able ads.
YouTube announced the plans by emailing channel owners and content creators, saying that they are offering choice to fans and that the new move will supplement the creators’ “fast growing revenue”. This email was only sent to some of the biggest YouTube channels, leaving creators with medium and small followings to read about the news online rather than from Google itself.
Creators have been given a deadline of 15th June to sign up and Google has created an ultimatum as those who do not will have to set their videos to ‘private’, meaning that neither paying nor non-paying YouTube fans can view them. YouTube says that creators can choose to host their videos elsewhere but in order to continue hosting them on YouTube they will have to set the videos to private if they do not wish to participate in the new scheme. This is because they believe that “any fan who’s willing to pay for a feature like an ads-free experience on YouTube deserves to access the exact same content that appears on the paid side”.
YouTube will pocket almost half of the revenue; 45% will be kept by the online video site, while the remaining 55% will be shared among creators in line with their share of subscriber’s views. It has not yet been announced how much the monthly subscription will cost, but it is suspected to be between $10-$15.
This is not the first time that YouTube has tried out a paid scheme for video fans- it has previously implemented a trial subscription for individual channels but the feature was scrapped as it was not popular enough. Last year users were also given the option to use Fan Funding, a feature that allows viewers to tip them so that they can increase their income.
The biggest question that remains to be answered is whether viewers will actually pay to watch free content. If the subscription does not give users any more benefits than being able to watch videos without the hassle of sitting through an advert, then there is not a big incentive for people to join unless they watch a large amount of videos. Even then, free services such as AdBlock for Chrome and Safari browsers automatically block adverts from showing including those preceding YouTube videos.
While YouTube is still a growing site and the biggest channels are making hundreds of thousands of dollars every year from their share of advertising revenue, it seems like a backwards move for Google to try to encourage viewers to avoid the very adverts that brings it such a large amount of money in the first place. In addition, not allowing YouTubers to opt-out of the monthly paid scheme may seem like an obvious move, but this removes the right of choice for not-for-profit channels to refuse to be part of a revenue-creating service. However it seems that Google is not the only company trying out paid subscriptions for videos- Vessel charges $2.99 a month for viewers to watch videos 72 hours before they go live on YouTube while Patreon enables viewers to pay YouTubers every time they publish a new video.
The good news is that YouTube will continue to provide an ad-supported free version for viewers who don’t want to pay, but current speculation has fuelled rumours that ads will become longer and un-skip-able in order to increase YouTube’s profit from all angles.