YouTube Unveils Subscription Service, New Programming, Music App

YouTube officially announced its long-anticipated subscription service at an event today at YouTube Space LA in Playa Vista, Ca. featuring appearances by top creators such as Lilly Singh, Joey Graceffa, Rooster Teeth and The Fine Bros., along with Susanne Daniels, who recently came on board as VP of YouTube Originals.

Priced at $9.99 a month (for Android, desktop and mobile web) and $12.99 a month (for iOS devices) the service — dubbed YouTube Red — will enable users to watch videos ad-free across the platform, save videos to watch offline on a phone or tablet, and play videos in the background. It also gives access to Google Play Music service at no additional cost.

“It’s a major evolution for our platform, even as our ad-supported business continues to thrive,” Robert Kyncl, chief business officer of YouTube, told the assembled press, adding that it offers a wide selection of content for the price of a single SVOD service.

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Beginning next year, YouTube Red will also give subscribers access to original series and movies from some of the platform’s most popular creators.

The titles announced today are:

  • “Scare PewDiePie”: A reality-adventure series from the creator and executive producers of “The Walking Dead” at Skybound Entertainment and Maker Studios in which #1 YouTube star PewDiePie encounters terrifying situations inspired by his favorite video games.
  • “Sing It!”: A scripted comedy from Fine Brothers Entertainment and Mandeville Films that lovingly satirizes the reality singing genre.
  • “Lazer Team”: A feature-length action-comedy from Rooster Teeth and Fullscreen Films in which four small-town losers stumble upon an alien ship carrying a mysterious cargo, leading to a battle to save Earth from an all-powerful enemy.
  • “A Trip to Unicorn Island”: A full-length feature from the team at Astronauts Wanted taking an inside look at the life and journey of Lilly Singh as she embarks on a challenging 26-city global.
  • Untitled Joey Graceffa project: An all-new reality adventure series in which Joey Graceffa brings together an ensemble of top YouTubers for a murder mystery scenario in which they must form alliances to survive. “It’s going to be like [the board game] Clue,” Graceffa told the crowd.
  • 360 Project from MatPat of Game Theory: YouTube educator and pop culture expert MatPat from The Game Theorists invites the audience to come along for the ride in an innovative new series and 360 VR experience in which he explores the real-life science behind popular video games.
  • “Single by 30”: A romantic drama series from Wong Fu Productions and New Form Digital in which two high school best friends make a promise to get married if they’re still single at 30. A decade later, with 30 quickly approaching, their attempt at upholding their vow unfolds in unexpected ways. Starring Harry Shum, Jr. and Kina Grannis.
  • Untitled CollegeHumor project: Written by and starring the cast of CollegeHumor, along with special guests, this new anthology series takes a dark and comedic look at the absurdity of Internet culture.
  • “Fight of the Living Dead”: A reality competition series from Alpine Labs that takes top YouTube talent and traps them in a simulated zombie apocalypse.
  • “I Am Tobuscus”: A scripted comedy from Toby Turner exploring the world of a self-involved YouTube creator pursuing bigger stardom, featuring original music.

Viewers in the U.S. can try YouTube Red for free with a one month trial starting on October 28th. The service will roll out in other markets over the course of the next year.

At the event, YouTube also unveiled its new YouTube Music app, available later this year, which expands on its YouTube Music Key subscription service.

YouTube said that it launched YouTube Music Key in beta last year to learn from music fans, and a key learning was that they didn’t want to use its features on just music — they wanted to use them across all of YouTube.

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The YouTube Music app is free to download and use, but with a YouTube Red membership it removes ads and unlocks additional background and offline member benefits. Those who download the Music app users get a 14-day complimentary YouTube Red membership without entering their credit card number, but later, if they choose to provide the digits, they can extend the trial for another 30 days. As with YouTube Red, it will be initially available only in the U.S.

“We’ve learned that users want specialized experiences — like YouTube Kids and YouTube Gaming — for certain use cases and we wanted to create a way to more easily discover the artists, albums, videos and versions that you love,” said YouTube in a statement. “Additionally, we wanted to deliver an app that enables you to experience the music you love, with less work.

In July, YouTube signaled it was upping its commitment to in-house production when it announced it was hiring former MTV exec Daniels in the newly-created role of VP of YouTube Originals. She started work in YouTube’s Beverly Hills office two weeks ago. As president of programming at MTV since 2012, Daniels built up the network’s narrative slate with such series as “Finding Carter,” “Faking It,” “Scream” and the forthcoming “The Shannara Chronciles,” due in early 2016.

In anticipation of YouTube’s announcement, competing video hosting platform Vimeo — which uses a transactional model — released a statement yesterday in which it expressed doubts that YouTube users will be willing and able to pay for what they’ve long gotten for free, even if it means not watching ads.

“With YouTube’s core teen audience not holding credit cards, for many the $10 a month fee may be too steep, or simply not payable,” said the company in a statement, adding, “Vimeo has been a premium service since inception, with an established, young adult audience willing to pay for content direct from creators they love and trust.” That content includes series such as “Parallax” and “Oscar’s Hotel For Fantastical Creatures” from by high-profile YouTube creators Sawyer Hartman and PJ Ligouri, respectively.

In truth, it’s not the first time YouTube has asked users to pay. In 2010, it introduced an online rental service available to users in the U.S., Canada and the U.K. offering 6,000 films from channels such as Docurama and The Orchard.

Earlier this year, YouTube sent all video creators a new terms of use agreement asking them to agree to make all of their videos available for ad-free viewing. The missive warned that, for those who didn’t agree to participate in the ad-free subscription service, their “videos will no longer be available for monetization in the United States.”

For users, the subscription service will remain optional. In a statement, YouTube said that “the ad-supported YouTube you know and love is not going anywhere and is a core part of our business. If a user chooses not to become a member they will continue to experience the same free, ad-supported YouTube as they do today.”

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