YouTube's paid service continues to take shape

Lucas Shaw and Brian Womack:

Partners accounting for more than 90 percent of YouTube viewing have signed on to the paid service, the company said in a statement. While the lineup incudes home-grown celebrities and music videos, YouTube so far doesn’t have TV networks such as Fox, NBC and CBS, according to people with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified discussing the project.

Signing up >90% of partners certainly is an impressive ratio.

The company has advised partners like top draw PewDiePie that their clips won’t be allowed to remain on the public, ad-supported YouTube if they don’t also sign up for the commercial-free subscription version. (Holdouts can keep videos hosted privately on YouTube, allowing them to become public once a deal is reached.)

Well, threatening partners with their videos no longer remaining public sure is big stick to wield. Given there's seemingly not been nearly as much outcry over YouTube's proposed move here compared to YouTube's attempts to gather signatures for Music Key, it seems reasonable to assume most content creators are happy with what's being proposed here.

YouTube will introduce two new features to convince people to pay for the commercial-free service. Subscribers will be able to store and watch videos without an Internet connection, and while using other applications on a mobile phone or tablet, people with knowledge of the matter said in April. Neither of those are available to users of the free service.

Offline playback and video multitasking are both features that would likely entice me to pony up for a YouTube subscription fee.

One important consideration here: full video playback while using other apps is of course entirely possible on Android, but it's not on iOS (outside of the new iOS multitasking APIs which are available only on the most recent iPad Airs). Presumably YouTube will allow for background audio playback on all iOS devices, but the fact remains this terrific feature arguably becomes much less of a draw for iOS users, who I would expect make up a significant segment of the audience that might pay for such a service.

Google’s video division said last year it would fund a number of original series, and has made deals with key partners like Fine Brothers Entertainment and Joey Graceffa, which already attract millions of viewers.

That effort could amount to more than a dozen original series next year, with budgets ranging from a few hundred thousand dollars to as much as $5 million, according to producers who also asked not to be named discussing private financial matters.

I'd expect compelling (subscription exclusive) original content is a prerequisite for a paid YouTube service to prove successful. After all, Netflix, with all its great (and increasingly exclusive) content costs but $8.99 a month, and I have a hard time imagining the masses will be willing to pay a (presumably) similar amount when all they get is the ability to not see the ads they're already well accustomed to skipping/watching, plus improved apps.