By Nina Mulamba
Google Inc. is rolling out an ad-free subscription service, YouTube Red, along with a host of original programming to lure paying subscribers to its massive YouTube platform.
YouTube is to launch a subscription service offering original, exclusive videos, including feature length films starring high-profile loggers.
YouTube Red will cost $9.99 a month for Android users when it launches in the U.S. next week after years of development. It will be available when subscribers sign in on a variety of devices and apps, including a new YouTube Music app that is set to launch later this year. The YouTube Kids app doesn’t allow users to sign in, so it won’t immediately support the ad-free service.
YouTube Red will expand to other major markets next year. For users of iPhones and other Apple Inc. devices, the service will cost $12.99 a month. The subscription fee for Apple users is more expensive because Apple charges app makers a 30% fee on in-app purchases such as subscriptions, a Google spokesperson said.
YouTube Red original shows will include:
o Scare PewDiePie – a reality adventure series as Felix reacts to situations inspired by his favorite games.
o Sing it! – A comedy that satirizes talent competitions
o Lazer Team – A movie featuring four characters who find an alien ship carrying an strange cargo
o A Trip to Unicorn Island – An in-depth look at the life of Lilly Singh as she embarks on a 26 city tour.
o Single by 30 – a romantic drama about two high school friends who pledge to marry each other if they are still unwed at 30
o Fight of the Living Dead – a reality show that puts popular You Tubers in a frightening zombie apocalypse to see how they cope
o I Am Tobuscus – a comedy about a self-involved YouTube creator trying to be a big star
The roster also includes some as yet untitled items such as a show based around the science of video games that will be filmed for VR headsets, a reality series that puts YouTube stars into a murder mystery setting and an anthology looking at the absurdity of the internet culture.
For Google, the service opens up a new revenue stream while appeasing content partners such as record companies, who are counting on subscription streaming revenue to stay afloat, as CD and download sales decline.
“We’re realizing paid membership is a really hard business to be in,” said YouTube Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl at a press event Wednesday at YouTube’s campus near the Los Angeles International Airport, “a sprawling space where YouTube stars and mainstream artists frequently perform and make videos”. To compete, Mr. Kyncl said the company focused on its exclusive content and the “most desired” features on subscription services, such as offline capabilities.
YouTube’s new music app will also seek to differentiate itself from competitors. That is, subscribers will have access not just to the same 30 million-song library that they do on Spotify and Apple Music, but also to an easily searchable database of each artist’s music videos, live performance videos, covers, remixes and other unofficial versions of their songs.
The music app will be free to download and use, but subscribing will remove ads and unlock additional background and offline features. App users get a 14-day free YouTube Red membership without entering a credit card number, and can extend their trial for an additional 30 days after entering credit card information.
The new music app will operate separately from Google Play, but YouTube Red members will get subscription access to Google Play Music, and vice versa.