Nonfiction

YouTube Red

7 July 2016

Okay, let’s get one thing clear: YouTube Red should not be confused with Redtube, despite the ambiguous presence of the word ‘red’ in its name. Rather, YouTube Red is a change from the free video sharing and streaming site into a paid subscription monster. Whether this is good or bad, I’ll let you decide, but here’s what you need to know first.

YouTube Red was announced last year as a subscription service for access to better quality content, sans all ads – features that were present in YouTube’s short-lived Music Key. It finally had its Australians launch  May, which most people probably noticed because of the pop-up offering a free trial of both YouTube Red and a new, dedicated, music app. Beyond the free trial, YouTube Red costs $11.99 AUD per month, up there with Netflix and Spotify.

So, what does one actually get with yet another subscription fee? Well, no advertising is a great start, even though you could achieve the same feat with an ad-blocker (ssh). There’s access to ‘YouTube Originals’, which is a new channel featuring in-house content with ‘some of your favourite YouTubers’ (if PewDiePie actually counts) but does not provide access to any of the multitude of television shows you can purchase on YouTube. You can also save videos through the app for offline watching (also achievable without a subscription), and play videos in the background on your devices  which can get really annoying when you forget about said feature and you just want that person unboxing an Ikea desk to shut up. What, is that only me?

The question you’re probably now asking is: is it worth it? And I’ll be honest, for the average uni student who knows how to use the Internet and is patient enough to sit through some advertising, no, it’s probably not worth it. YouTube Red doesn’t look any different, and its paid features should surely be a given in this day and age, aside from the ad-free experience.

The other question is: where does the money go? YouTube claims that the revenue earned from YouTube Red will go directly back to content creators. Which does make sense, given the fact that by taking advertising away from a video, you also remove a creator’s main source of income on the platform. However, the idea of YouTube undermining their own revenue model for creators in order to create a pay-wall does seem odd. The platform has also not mentioned exactly how they’ll figure out who to give the money to, although YouTube Chief Business Office Robert Kyncl has stated that the “vast majority” of its subscription revenue will be shared with content creators . However, given that YouTube has for years been running at a loss, it may be an attempt to make the platform more fruitful.

YouTube Red is one in a long line of subscription services that are being introduced nowadays. Spotify, Netflix, Apple Music, Presto, Stan, Pandora, the list goes on. Media companies have noticed that users are more likely to pay for access to a whole service rather than picking and choosing to purchase what they want to purchase. Creating subscription services instead of online stores also counteracts illegal piracy and downloading, particularly in Australia where piracy is rampant due to Foxtel, lengthy delays, and our general similarity to pirates. It also benefits us Aussies given the massive price-gouging we’ve come to see in places like the iTunes Store, where we pay astronomical figures compared to other countries.

Maybe YouTube Red isn’t for you – you probably don’t feel like spending $12 a month just to indulge in ad-free cat videos or save life hack videos for later viewing. However, most people are more than likely to be considering or already signed up to other subscription services. In that case,,  here’s one last thing you should know.

In the 2016 Federal Budget,the Government announced an ‘Amazon Tax’, meaning that our standard GST will be applied to overseas online companies, including (read it and weep) ASOS, Amazon, and the aforementioned streaming services from July 2017. This will increase prices by 10 per cent in line with goods and services here, which really adds up, particularly when paying a monthly subscription fee. What’s more, Netflix  scales their subscription price by the popularity of illegal downloading in a given country, meaning that they’ve purposely made Australia’s fee cheaper in order to entice pirates over to the good side.

It does seem like YouTube Red has jumped on the subscription bandwagon to match an ongoing trend, so maybe it’s not the best idea to drop the cash on it. But hey, that free trial was fine.

Image Credit: Engadget


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