What you need to know about YouTube Red, the subscription service that is definitely not Netflix
James R | On 21, Oct 2015
YouTube has launched its own subscription service – but don’t compare it to Netflix.
YouTube Red, unveiled today in the US, lets users watch videos across all of YouTube without ads, while also letting them download videos to watch offline on a phone or tablet and play videos in the background.
The price? $9.99 a month, more than Netflix’s £7.49 a month and Amazon Prime’s £5.99 a month.
“For years, YouTube’s fans have been telling us they want more—more choice when watching their favorite content, more ways to support their favorite creators and, above all, the option to watch their favorite videos uninterrupted,” said YouTube in an official blog post announcing the SVOD service.
Strength in numbers
The move arrives just as YouTube begins to face stiff competition from Facebook’s fledgling video platform, not to mention other sites such as Vessel, which offer early access to YouTube videos for a small fee. The announcement of YouTube’s own subscription service has been widely anticipated for some time, with rumours of large media companies, such as Time Warner, offering premium content. But if such deals with traditional TV would position YouTube Red as a Netflix rival, the final product is as defiantly different to Netflix as possible.
The package may seem overpriced for what it offers – essentially, a slightly better YouTube – but the site is not trying to win over subscribers to other sites: it’s trying to encourage its existing users to pay money. After all, YouTube already has over a billion users, with more 18 to 34-year-olds than any cable network in the US. Its strength lies in its community of creators and fans, not in old-fashioned media.
YouTube learned that lesson the hard way back in 2011, when it spent millions on original content, only to find that home-grown channels were more popular than those based around existing Hollywood celebrities. And so YouTube Red continues to foster that existing relationship: the platform is as much about finding new ways to pay its creators, discouraging them from leaving the site and switching to Facebook.
YouTube is taking a leaf from Netflix’s book, though, in realising that exclusive, original content is key to make sure your subscription service stands out in an increasingly crowded market.
Starting early next year, YouTube Red will introduce member-only original shows and movies from some of YouTube’s biggest creators. While traditional media content may not be present, there’s a noted crossover between experienced TV muscle and young YouTube talent: a sign that the site is serious about establishing its own network.
Here’s a rundown of the shows on the way:
In this reality-adventure series from the creator and executive producers of The Walking Dead at Skybound Entertainment and Maker Studios, experience thrills, chills and laughter as PewDiePie encounters terrifying situations inspired by his favorite video games.
From Fine Brothers Entertainment and Mandeville Films comes SING IT!, a scripted comedy that lovingly satirizes the reality singing competitions that have become a centerpiece of pop culture.
In this feature-length action-comedy from Rooster Teeth and Fullscreen Films, four small-town losers stumble upon an alien ship carrying a mysterious cargo, leading to a battle to save Earth from an all-powerful enemy.
A Trip to Unicorn Islan
From the team at Astronauts Wanted, this feature-length movie gives fans an extraordinary look inside the life and journey of Lilly Singh as she embarks on a challenging 26-city global tour where she has to remember to practice what she preaches: happiness is the only thing worth fighting for.
Untitled Joey Graceffa project
In this all-new reality adventure series, Joey Graceffa brings together an ensemble of top YouTubers for a murder mystery they’ll never forget. They’ll form alliances to survive, but little do they know that most won’t make it out alive.
360 Project from MatPat of Game Theory
YouTube educator and pop culture expert MatPat from The Game Theorists invites the audience to come along for the ride in an innovative new series and 360 VR experience. In each episode Matt explores the real-life science behind popular video games by throwing gamers into the high-stakes scenarios they play through every day, from water jetpacks to haunted pizzerias.
Single by 30
In this romantic drama series from Wong Fu Productions and New Form Digital, two high school best friends make a promise to get married if they’re still single at 30. A decade later, with 30 quickly approaching, their attempt at upholding their vow unfolds in unexpected ways. Starring Harry Shum, Jr. and Kina Grannis.
Untitled CollegeHumor project
Written by and starring the cast of CollegeHumor, along with special guests, this new anthology series will take a dark and comedic look at the absurdity of Internet culture.
Fight of the Living Dead
In an unprecedented social experiment reality show from Alpine Labs, Fight of the Living Dead takes popular YouTube talent and traps them in a frighteningly realistic zombie apocalypse. They must use their instincts and gaming skills to survive as they battle the elements for the ultimate prize of survival.
I Am Tobuscus
From the mind of Toby Turner, this scripted comedy explores the world of a self-involved YouTube creator pursuing bigger stardom. The show features original music, and satirizes the hilarious details of being an eccentric, new-age celebrity.
Music to Google’s ears
YouTube is also borrowing a leaf from Amazon’s book by being savvy enough to understand that combining its various services into one subscription package is likely to result in wider take-up.
YouTube Red subscriptions will therefore also apply to the recently launched YouTube Gaming platform and also a new YouTube Music app.
“YouTube Music is designed to make discovering, watching and listening to music easier than ever. Any song or artist you choose on YouTube Music will start you on a personal journey through one of the richest music catalogs; just sign in, tap a track you love, and see where your music takes you,” says YouTube. Indeed, in addition to official music videos, YouTube’s catalogue of song-related videos also includes unique things such as remixes and parodies.
YouTube Red will also work with Google Play Music, Google’s Spotify rival that offers ad-free music streaming: subscribe to one and users automatically get access to the other.
Money in creators’ pockets
So how do creators earn money from YouTube Red? YouTubers earn a share of the revenue from subscriptions, based on the amount of watch time their videos get from Red members.
All videos on YouTube are available on YouTube Red, which means that all creators are eligible to earn income from subscribers choosing to watch theirs ad-free. Subscription revenue payments will be sent at the beginning of each month, at the same time that creators would normally receive ad revenue payments.
“It’ll take time to build a significant membership base,” admits YouTube, but says its “confident that as membership grows, YouTube Red will begin to deliver more and more value to [creators]”.
YouTube is still available for free
YouTube is still available in its free, ad-supported form that everyone knows and loves. Think of YouTube Red, then, as an option pay-wall to get access to ad-free titles and, eventually, original content.
There were some reports of YouTube creators being strong-armed into signing up for the new service, forcing them to upload videos for subscription-only viewing, but creators’ videos are only set to private if they don’t agree to YouTube offering Red to their subscribers at all; in other words, they can continue to display their videos for free and earn money from adverts and, without having to do anything, also earn money from those choosing to subscribe to YouTube Red.
Or, to put it another way: exclusive pay-wall content isn’t about to become the norm.
“I won’t be offering paid content on my channel, and neither will most of your faces,” vlogger Emma Blackery told her followers on Twitter, as news of the new service spread.
The service launches on Wednesday 28th October in the US, with the service set to roll out to other countries in the future.
What do you make of YouTube Red? Would you pay to watch YouTube without ads? Let us know your thoughts below.