It has been almost a year since YouTube started talking about the possibility of a subscription service. Since then, we’ve seen YouTube Music Key and multiple different stories revolving around their future ad-free subscription plan. Earlier this week, YouTube finally gave creators a date on when we can expect this service to launch. The real question is how content creators and their audiences will respond to such a big change.
This past Thursday, various content creators received an email from YouTube. The email confirms “a new ads-free version of YouTube, available to fans for a monthly fee,” is coming soon. The email asks creators to agree to these new terms by October 22nd, so it's safe to assume that is around the time when the service will be available.
The main question is whether viewers will actually use this service. There has been no official word on the pricing, but sources say it should only cost around $10 per month. Sources also say this price will not only include ad-free videos, but also the Music Key service YouTube beta tested earlier this year. Giving two services for the price of one certainly seems like a great deal, but will people be willing to pay for these features when they can get them for free? There are multiple well-established music streaming sites that will certainly be tough competition for YouTube and many users have some sort of ad-blocker installed on their computer. One possibility, however, is that YouTube may find a way to make these blockers not work on YouTube. We've already seen an alleged Chrome bug that prevent Ad Block from working on YouTube, and there are multiple sites that completely restrict access if an adblocker is detected. Will YouTube take the same route?
A factor that is even bigger than user adoption is content creator support. One of the main ways I can foresee this service being successful is if it's something content creators push. Whether they would want to do this or not depends on the kind of money they make from paid viewers compared to ad-supported viewers. It's no secret that YouTubers don't make all the money they should because of adblockers, so it's possible this subscription service will ensure they are getting paid for the views they earned.
One thing that is still in question is what the role of multi-channel networks will be once this service launches. Right now, the MCNs are in control of CPM percentages content creators receive. It's unclear how exactly this will translate over to the paid subscription model and what type of rates networks will be able to offer.
The changes in YouTube's ad policies that were made earlier this year suggests that Google isn't on the side of the content creators. This change in policy made it significantly harder to content creators to make money on their own terms. If YouTube continues to make it harder for creators to monetize their content, it's possible they could start moving to other platforms. We have already seen a handful of channels make their content available on Vessel for a monthly fee, so it's clear that a big platform move is entirely possible.
While the service seems to be a good deal upon first glance, there a lot of small uncertainties that are concerning. Depending on how YouTube handles the music aspect of the service, it is possible for it to have a huge hand over other services due to the huge variety of music YouTube hosts. On the other hand, YouTube could quickly further alienate content creators and further damage their relationship with the community. Regardless, it will be very interesting to see how this all plays out in the months to come.