YouTube Red not RedTube

YouTube Red not to be confused with RedTube

YouTube Red, Google’s new subscription streaming service offers consumers (and pirates) ad free content to watch (and steal).

YouTube has decided to enter the subscription streaming fray with the announcement yesterday of its new (ad-free) premium channel, YouTube Red.  Despite the unfortunate choice of a name —similar to a rather notorious porn site that has both the word “red” and “tube” in its title– YouTube is hoping its new endeavor will catch some of the ad-free streaming mojo enjoyed by the popular subscription based offerings of Netflix, HULU, and Amazon Prime.  And, like the others, YouTube will develop its own slate of “YouTube Originals.”

This isn’t the first time YouTube has taken steps to compete head-to-head against streaming services.  Earlier this year, when it announced the launch of its subscription-based Music Key service (designed to compete with the likes of Spotify and Pandora) YouTube quickly earned reputation as a bully when indie musicians were threatened with losing access to the YouTube platform (and monetization) if they refused to agree to contract terms inferior to those offered major labels.  The East Bay Express’s  wrote about YouTube’s aggressive tactics with musician Zoe Keating:

According to a transcript of the conversation provided by Keating, YouTube told the successful independent cellist and songwriter that, unless she opted in to YouTube’s new streaming service, Music Key, by signing a proposed contract without stipulation, her ability to earn ad revenue from the 9,696 videos featuring her songs, and their roughly 250,000 monthly views would be effectively revoked; her music would appear on Music Key anyway; and furthermore, YouTube would have to block her from uploading new material from her current account. —East Bay Express

YouTube Music Key

YouTube Music Key remains in Beta

It’s worth noting that Music Key remains in the beta testing phase and apparently, for the moment, isn’t taking new sign ups.  No firm date has been set for its public debut either.  Guess all that licensing (asking permission) stuff is taking longer than expected eh?

With the announcement of its new service, charges that the company is, once again, using heavy-handed tactics against creators, been raised according to Tech Crunch.  Apparently YouTube hasn’t changed its approach, despite the blowback from their smarmy Music Key negotiations with indie musicians:

YouTube made its top video creators an offer they literally couldn’t refuse, or they’d have their content disappear. Today YouTube confirmed that any “partner” creator who earns a cut of ad revenue but doesn’t agree to sign its revenue share deal for its new YouTube Red $9.99 ad-free subscription will have their videos hidden from public view on both the ad-supported and ad-free tiers. That includes videos by popular comedians, musicians, game commentators, and DIY instructors, though not the average person that uploads clips. —TechCrunch

YouTube also sticks to its script in offering sketchy details as to just how creators participating in this new service will be paid.   According to the NY Times, YouTube officials implied that they were launching the service as a benefit to creators:

YouTube executives said they were introducing a subscription service in part to give a new revenue stream to the Internet-famous “creators,” the most popular of which already make millions of dollars a year in advertising revenue. —NY Times

What that really means, of course, is really more profit for YouTube.  Not surprising–but lets not pretend they have an altruistic mission when it comes to motivations at company HQ.

Will YouTube eventually find success competing in the subscription marketplace with the likes of Netflix and Amazon?   Perhaps–but it can be hard for a leopard to change its spots.

For the past ten years we’ve come to know YouTube as a pastiche of content, some original, some stolen, some mash-ups including porn, terrorist recruiting videos, murder videos,  pirated movies and music, cute puppies….you name it, it’s there.  Will the site’s faithful users take kindly to having to sign dubious contracts to upload their content?

While the site is hugely popular–and according to Digital Music News now accounts for 40% of music listening, but only 4% of music revenue–will people pay for something they’ve become accustomed to for free?

By creating its own original content, YouTube/Google moves into the world occupied by Hollywood and Television.  Now one has to wonder how YouTube/Google will greet the swarms of pirates attracted to fresh content.  I imagine it won’t be long before pirate sites around the globe will be offering up downloads, torrents and streams of YouTube Red content and I’m sure links to the stolen goods will be easy to find.  Just use Google search…

Welcome to our world.