According to YouTube, four of the most-watched videos on the streaming service last year were ads. On Wednesday, the company introduced YouTube Red, the feature it hopes to turn YouTube from a platform to a service, taking on Netflix, Spotify, and everyone else — all at once. All without a single ad.
YouTube Red is YouTube's subscription service. It's going to cost $9.99 a month — the going rate for streaming services — and the big news is it's going to make all YouTube content ad-free. However, it also turns YouTube in a more robust way to watch things, by allowing people to save content offline, and including content from YouTube gaming and YouTube Music.
It launches next week — Wednesday, October 28th — with a one-month free trial.
YouTube Music will become a standalone app, which launches "later this year," according to a YouTube spokesperson. YouTube plans to use what the company learned from the YouTube Music Key beta last year and bring it to consumers in a widespread release. While YouTube is the primary platform for music videos and has an enormous, unique catalog, it's never been easy to take YouTube on the go, or make easy-to-listen-to playlists. YouTube Music is, essentially, a streaming service in line with the Spotifiy and Apple Musics of the world.
From the demonstration YouTube presented on Wednesday, it features a more visual layout — very big thumbnails — and knows to include the live versions of songs, covers, remixes, and other rarities that makes YouTube's content stand out from its competitors. When you click play on a song in the app, the music video starts playing, but when the music video is stopped or minimized, the music itself keeps playing.
YouTube Red also includes a subscription to Google Play Music, which means it is, essentially, two music streaming services for the price of one. (Likewise, if you have a Google Play Music subscription, you also get YouTube Red.)
YouTube Red will also include exclusive original content starting this January. YouTube is planning on leveraging its sizable stable of self-created celebrities to compete with the original streaming content pioneered by Netflix and Amazon. It will launch with a feature film with YouTube star Lily Singh, a ten-episode singing competition show hosted by the Fine Brothers, and a horror reality series starring PewDiePie. If you know who they all are, congratulations, you are YouTube's target subscriber.
While YouTube Red is priced at $9.99 per month, that doesn't apply to anyone who purchases it directly on an iPhone: iOS subscribers who buy YouTube Red through Apple will be charged an additional $3, so it costs $12.99 instead. According to a YouTube spokesperson, "As everyone knows, Apple charges an additional fee, so we’re passing that fee on." Basically, because Apple charges a 30% fee for content to be sold via its App Store or as an in-app purchase, YouTube is charging 30% more for Red when it's sold there.
Of course, because it's a subscription service that works across platforms, you could just pay for YouTube Red on the web and use it on your iPhone for the original $9.99 price. Which makes this a bit more of a dig at Apple, than a real iOS tax.
Brendan Klinkenberg is a tech reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco.
Contact Brendan Klinkenberg at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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