Video streaming giant YouTube is now offering a paid subscription service, Red, which could influence other social media platforms to adopt a similar feature.
YouTube has been a staple of online video viewing since its introduction in 2005. Bought by Google in 2006, the platform has remained profitable thanks to advertising opportunities—and free for its more than one billion active users. Considering the ever-growing library of content available on the platform, a few seconds of ad-watching is a price most users are happy to pay.
Now, YouTube is offering an option for viewers who can’t stand the advertisements any longer. Its subscription service Red is available for Android devices (at $9.99 per month) and iOS devices (at $12.99 per month). With this service, users can watch as many videos as they want as often as they want without ever having to watch ads in the meantime. Other bonus features of the services include the ability to continue playing videos in the background while working on other apps, as well as saving videos locally for offline or future viewing. This will admittedly hurt advertisers who are looking to create both free and paid content for YouTube.
In the future, there may also be Red-exclusive video submissions. YouTube has repeatedly hinted that it is interested in procuring content from its most popular creators, and now it appears that these procured shows and videos will make their debut only for subscribers of Red.
Currently, the service is available only in the United States, but YouTube plans to introduce the service globally next year. New users can sign up for a one-month free trial to evaluate the service before subscribing on a month-to-month basis. The service will also apply to all of YouTube’s individual apps, including YouTube Music.
There’s no shortage of paid subscription video streaming apps. Netflix currently has more than 33.3 million paid subscribers (and growing), and its closest competitors Amazon Prime and Hulu have millions of paid users on their own. On the surface, YouTube’s decision to offer a more content-driven paid streaming service could be construed as an effort to put it more in line with these industry leaders.
However, there’s something different about YouTube; Netflix, Hulu, and similar apps are all focused on bringing users professionally created material, essentially making them entertainment apps. And while YouTube certainly has significant entertainment value, it is primarily classified as a social app. Users leverage the platform to create and share their own material, engage with other creators and users, and ultimately build and contribute to communities. Despite its potential use as an exclusive entertainment app, it’s a social media app first and foremost.
Applying to other social apps
The best question to ask now is, will other social media apps pick up on YouTube’s idea and apply it to their own user bases? Snapchat, another social app, recently made headlines when it offered a paid feature to its previously cost-free app. Instead of letting snaps fade away and die their natural death, users can choose to “replay” them using a limited number of credits, buying three more credits for $0.99. It’s possible that Snapchat could one day introduce a special subscription service that allows a guaranteed number of replays for its highest-paying users every month in exchange for a monthly fee.
As pressure starts growing for social media companies to make more money and users grow exhausted of advertising, it’s reasonable to suspect we’ll see more subscription services like these. Undoubtedly, free options for social users will continue to exist, but these paid options could become the new norm for practically any app available, including major players like Facebook and Twitter. Advertisers may soon need to find alternatives for direct audience communication online.