Apart from Justin Bieber videos and comment trolls, ads are the most annoying thing about YouTube. But most of us have come to accept that we're going to have to watch five, 15, or god forbid 30 seconds of an ad before our video plays – and even during our video plays if the video is long enough. It's just a fact of life – death, taxes, and YouTube ads.
But if there were a way to remove ads from the equation, what would you pay?
If your answer is around 10 bucks a month or something, then you're in luck. YouTube's long-discussed ad-free subscription plan is on the horizon, and it looks like that'll be the price point.
YouTube confirmed the offering in a letter to its partners, saying the new ad-free paid subscription will "generate a new source of revenue that will supplement [thier] fast growing advertising revenue."
"We’re confident this latest contract update will excite your fans and generate a previously untapped, additional source of revenue for you," said the YouTube team in the letter.
According to YouTube's updated Terms of Service, that will amount to 55% of total net revenues from the new subscription fees. Partners must participate in the subscription program, or risk their videos being set to private – according to source quoted by The Verge.
"YouTube will pay you 55% of the total net revenues recognized by YouTube from subscription fees that are attributable to the monthly views or watchtime of your Content as a percentage of the monthly views or watchtime of all or a subset of participating content in the relevant subscription offering (as determined by YouTube). If your Content is included in and viewed by a user in multiple subscription offerings, YouTube will pay you based on the subscription offering with the highest amount of net revenues recognized by YouTube, as calculated by YouTube."
No official word on when YouTube will begin offering users the option to make the ads disappear or how much it will cost exactly. The Verge says it'll cost around $10. Bloomberg says it should be coming in the next few months. The new terms for partners take effect June 15.
YouTube would only give this standard response:
"While we can't comment on ongoing discussions, giving fans more choice to enjoy the content they love and creators more opportunity to earn revenue are always amongst our top priorities."
Ad-free sounds great. But who would pay for YouTube? Aren't we all just used to YouTube being free?
Here's what I had to say when this option was rumored way back in October:
The question then becomes … who would pay for YouTube?
You may or may now know that YouTube has already been experimenting with paid subscriptions on a smaller scale. Since May of last year, YouTube has offered paid channels. YouTube lets the channel creator set their own price (which could be anywhere from $0.99 a month to a few dollars a month), and then takes a cut of the profit. Paid channels started with a few dozen partners and soon expanded, but the initiative hasn’t really taken off – at least not as much as YouTube would’ve hoped.
Nearly a year and a half later, there are only 281 paid channels on YouTube.
And the problem that befalls paid channels could also affect YouTube’s move into offering a site-wide paid subscription service.
Is the content really worth paying for?
It’s one thing to pay a monthly or yearly fee to watch Game of Thrones or to listen to Led Zeppelin. It’s a whole different thing to pay money to watch babies laugh, cats chase laser pointers, and drunk people falling down stairs.
I know there’s much better content on YouTube than that – but you get the point.
YouTube caricature aside, a lot of people would likely have a problem justifying a monthly payment for YouTube. We’re all so used to YouTube being free. You know what we’re also pretty used to? Ads. It’s just a part of the experience now. Are you really that annoyed by ads to warrant paying for YouTube?
YouTube has already made a move toward paid models. You might recall its music service, YouTube Music Key, is currently in beta. It's an interesting concept, for sure – one that would put YouTube in the same breath as streaming platforms like Netflix.
But will people play for YouTube? And is going "ad-free" enough of a carrot to dangle? Maybe if YouTube made a show like Game of Thrones and put it behind a paywall.