Commentary

YouTube Red: Are You Buying This?

It’s odd that the world’s most ubiquitous online video site is making a huge change to the game--starting tomorrow--and so few people seem to be paying much attention.

YouTube Red will now charge $9.99 a month for subscribers to see pretty much the same things they previously were able to see on YouTube, with advertising, for free.

There are some significant pluses--a built-in Google Play Music deal and the ability to watch videos offline, too. But as YouTube brags, 99% of what you’ve been able to see for free will be available on YouTube Red. But now it will cost $120 a year.

Such a deal.

It does seem that once you add up those monthly fees into the round yearly one, that’s kind of real money, especially to many young users. If you’re facing a future with college loan bills twice as large as your starting salary, opting out of YouTube Red would be one bill you could easily eliminate, even before you accrue it. 

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And what are you paying for? YouTube Red seems a little like Dasani bottled water: It’s stuff right out of the spigot, just cleaned up a bit.

I readily acknowledge I could be dead wrong. But you can still see almost all the stuff on YouTube, but with a commercial pre-roll. And it’s a commercial that you can skip.

“There is nothing we are taking away from there [the original YouTube],” said Robert Kyncl, the chief business officer. YouTube Red is “merely adding” onto it.

Can’t say he’s lying. It’s actually about the most modest pitch for a pay service I’ve ever heard.

And that’s the thing. It doesn’t seem like there is a lot of there there.

“The biggest challenge to Red’s growth may well be the user-friendly format of YouTube’s TrueView skippable ads, which account for 85% of all ads run on YouTube,” says the marketing team at Sightly. It’s an ad tech firm that helps advertisers find the right place to put the spots that YouTube users might choose not to skip.

Their conclusion is that ”TrueView’s ‘Skip Ad’  functionality greatly lessens the annoyance factor, one reason why it’s so popular with advertisers. When viewers aren’t forced to watch ads and can skip them after five seconds, the demand for $9.99 per month ad-free subscriptions is likely to be significantly less than in other environments…”

That sounds about right to me, but as I’m discovering, I’m a sentimentalist for the dumbest things, like ads on YouTube that, targeted or not, are still annoying.

I do think that the streaming business is convincing itself that millennials are somehow uniquely opposed to commercials, but approve---no they actually embrace!--commercialism, in the form of longer, meaningful engagements that are, oh, about the length of a YouTube posting.  

If that’s what YouTube Red is all about, it’s going to turn into that magical place that charges $10 a month to watch supposedly ad-free videos with product signatures baked right into them. So consumers pay, get ads and delude themselves all at one convenient spot.

I wonder if it will work.

pj@mediapost.com

1 comment about "YouTube Red: Are You Buying This?".
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  1. Stan Valinski from Multi-Media Solutions Group, October 27, 2015 at 2:54 p.m.

    In broadcasting and the worlds of video content and broadband it seems that, like in all history, if we don't learn from history we will be destined to repeat it. This scenario seems much like the evoulution of TV. Does anyone else remember the signs posted in movie theaters in the 60's warning about "Pay TV"?  The ad based "free sites" should start a similar campaign to stop "PAY VIDEO". Unfortunatly in both cases change was inevitable due to the potential profits involved. Maybe YouTube can show a little heart and at least offer a student dicount.

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