YouTube Red: What we know and what we don’t

After setting the streaming world abuzz with the news of its paid service, some questions - like whether creators will stay loyal - remain unanswered.
October 22, 2015

A day after YouTube set the streaming world abuzz with news of its coming paid subscription service, creators and industry professionals are getting down to the business of figuring out what it all means.

The Google-owned video giant announced the birth of YouTube Red, the new ad-free service, on Oct. 21. YouTube Red will offer users an upgraded experience from the YouTube they’ve been enjoying for the past decade — for a price.

StreamDaily would like to help you parse the details of the big announcement. So, without further ado…

What we know:

  1. Most of the details Google unveiled at its presentation center around price, programming and format. The official launch date of YouTube Red is Oct. 28, and the monthly cost to users is $9.99 per month (with a free trial month).
  2. With that $9.99, viewers gain access to YouTube’s full content library free from all banner and pre-roll ads. They’ll also be able to save content to watch offline, and will soon gain access to a number of premium originals by YouTube creators, including PewDiePie, Lilly Singh, Rooster Teeth, Joey Graceffa (pictured) and more (see the full list).
  3. The service will be available through as many platforms and apps as YouTube itself — desktop, mobile and connected devices, along with connected devices. YouTube Red is also available through the newly-launched YouTube Gaming app, the YouTube Kids app, and Google Play Music.
  4. The announcement also included news of a YouTube Music app, which will focus on content and artist discovery. YouTube Music will have two levels of membership — a free tier, and a premium tier for YouTube Red users. Music included in YouTube Music will only be songs with videos on YouTube. Only Red members will be able to listen to the songs in “background mode,” meaning they can still listen to the audio track when they switch to another app. Like the video service, YouTube Music free users have to sit through ads, and cannot listen to tracks offline.

What we don’t know:

  1. Despite its cross-platform reach, Google has been less clear on the geographic reach of the new service. So far, its free trial is only available to U.S. users. It has not specified when YouTube Red will cross borders; Google has simply said in a blog post that it will extent to other countries (none specified) “soon.”
  2. YouTube Music is also “coming soon,” with no clear date for when it will drop. In addition, there’s no specified date for the release of its premium originals, though YouTube has stated that they will begin the roll out in early 2016.
  3. Though YouTube has posted the synopses of its planned originals, it has not gone into detail about the length and format of the series and whether they will resemble linear series in the same way Hulu and Netflix have formatted their originals.
  4. Despite being widely reported that the same 55/45 split that applies to ad revenue sharing will apply to YouTube Red, there are no details yet on how this will translate to a subscription service (ie/whether it is based proportionately on view count).
  5. It’s not clear how the “ad-free” model applies to branded content — many YouTubers make money off of branded content.
  6. Perhaps what’s most unclear is if any of YouTube’s creators will jump ship out of protest. In an earlier interview with StreamDailyManatt Digital Media CEO Peter Csathy (who regularly writes on the SVOD and OTT markets) said several creators have told him that they are unhappy with the perceived “take it or leave it” nature of the YouTube Red contract, which allegedly requires that all monetized channels make their content available on both service tiers. Will they leave? We all remember when, in 2014, singer Taylor Swift famously pulled her music library off of the subscription service Spotify in protest of its format, which makes all of the same content available on its free and paid model, and which also did not pay artists royalties.
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