There have been rumblings of an ad-free, paid subscription-based YouTube service for some time now, but in the past few days the rumors have been confirmed by Google officials. Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s head of content, confirmed that they were “fine-tuning the experience” at the Code/Media conference in Orange County late last week.
Paid, ad-free versions of otherwise free services have been proven to work well in the past. As of mid-January, around 25% of Spotify’s hulking 60 million-strong user base are paying subscribers, a ratio that it’s been healthily maintaining for almost a year. Spotify’s traffic figures are of course utterly dwarfed by YouTube, who rake in more than one billion users every single month.
This move will also play a vital role in YouTube’s increasing presence in the movie streaming market. Some full films are available to watch on YouTube, some legally, others not. You can also pay a one-off rental or purchase fee for certain films. With a subscription service, YouTube could eliminate or at least downsize this function and move a model more similar to Netflix.
This idea was actually taken for something of a test-drive back in 2013, when certain content providers were allowed to charge a subscription fee to access certain video channels. Partners during this trial run included National Geographic, Sesame Street and the PGA. It got some attention, but not anywhere near as much as some of the partners had hoped for.
Similarly, the Music Key service was launched to invited members as a beta back in November, enabling said users to watch music videos without any advertising between them and the content.
“We’ve invited our best users - it will launch in a few months to the public. It is a very important part of business. There are audiences who just don’t want to see ads. and in music - they want things like offline access. We want to deliver to fans and we want to deliver to creators a new revenue stream. This is an important initiative for us.” - Robert Kyncl
Currently Music Key is the service being earmarked for an imminent release, but it’s clear that it’s intended as a precursor to a more rounded, complete, universally applicable ad-free service.