As you might have read, there could be big changes coming to YouTube before the year runs out, most notably a possible subscription service aimed at providing ad-free viewing of the most popular YouTube celebrities. This is separate from the troubled Music Key service and, of course, the recent release of YouTube gaming. In case you’re curious, here’s a list of the 20 most popular YouTube celebrities as of last year, according to Business Insider.
As tech enthusiasts, you might also be familiar with MKBHD, or if you’re into football you might like thedallascowboyshow (that channel is pure entertainment whether you love or hate the Dallas Cowboys). Since everyone knows cats rule the Internet, you might like Funnycatsandnicefish. The point is you could pay a monthly subscription fee and not have to wait through any ads while you watch your favorite YouTube channels (provided Google includes them in the subscription service).
If the price is right, I’m sure many people would be interested in an ad-free subscription, and content providers would rake in more revenue – but would enough people subscribe to the service for it to be viable? Are you willing to pay for ad-free viewing of independent YouTubers as opposed to TV shows and movies from the big studios? If Google plays its cards right, you might be able to get the best of both worlds.
My point is that this new subscription service has the potential to be a powerful competitor to Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime and iTunes if Google combines big studio content with the best of YouTube’s existing channels. Here’s why I think we might see YouTube become a juggernaut and steal customers from the aforementioned rivals, and how Google could pull it off:
1. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon and iTunes don’t have access to YouTube’s best and brightest, which would give Google a huge advantage if they could also include content from major studios.
2. Google already has access to big-studio TV and movie content through the Play Store and through YouTube itself, though you currently have to pay for each TV show or movie individually. Consequently, they already have content they could conceivably fold into a subscription service.
3. It could prove difficult to get Hollywood on board with another all-you-can-eat Netflix competitor, but if Google were to offer multiple subscription tiers they might be able to get the major studios to provide content for the higher tiers if the price is right.
While an ad-free subscription service strictly to the most popular existing YouTube channels might be viable for a low-enough price, I think it could still be a hard sell to the masses who currently don’t mind waiting through the 5-to-30-second ads to see the latest kitten videos, tech reviews, movie trailers and comical football-themed rants by a certain frustrated yet very popular Cowboys fan. Throw in content from the major studios, though, and suddenly $15-$20 per month starts to look even more enticing than the $16 you might pay for Netflix and Hulu combined. In fact, such a premium subscription tier could make YouTube the greatest competitive threat the more established cord-cutters’ services have ever faced before.
What do you think? Could YouTube’s new subscription tier combine its most popular channels with TV and movie content from the major studios? Should Google consider going in this direction or should the Mothership just stick to YouTube’s existing indie content? Let us know in the comments below, or on Google+, Twitter, or Facebook!