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What Happens When The Price Of Free Goes Up? YouTube's About To Find Out

Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

The rumor that YouTube would finally, once and for all put some of its endless content behind the paywall has perpetuated for quite a while, and finally the plan is the real deal.

Google, YouTube's parent, on Wednesday revealed the new subscription service, ambiguously called "Red," which will give people a way to watch videos without those buzzkill commercials — for $9.99 a month.

It's slightly pricier than the $7.99-per-month price tag of regular Hulu Plus and basic Netflix, as well as Amazon Prime, which gives access to video and music (and free shipping of actual things) for $99 a year, which works out to $8.25 per month.


But Hulu's own ad-free service costs $11.99 a month. Netflix charges new subscribers $9.99 monthly for its "Standard" offer that includes HD video and concurrent streaming on two screens, and $11.99 for "Premium" service that includes ultra-HD and four-screen watching.

On the audio side, Pandora has a free music streaming service, but ad-free Pandora One costs $4.99 a month. Its rival Spotify has the free version and the $9.99-per-month ad-free premium version with downloads for offline listening.

Engadget offers a quick rundown of YouTube Red's main attractions:

"But most importantly, YouTube Red gives you ad-free playback and the ability to save anything you want to a device for offline viewing. YouTube Red will also encompass what was formerly called YouTube Music Key — it's now known as YouTube Music [--] will have its own dedicated app, and includes a full subscription to Google Play Music."

YouTube Music is expected to focus on music videos, and YouTube doesn't yet have a launch date for that element. But Red launches later this month and the new original content, ranging from short videos to full-length feature films, are expected next year.

Variety has a handy rundown of 10 original series "Red" plans to debut next year. The shows are a mix of scripted and reality TV and involve some of the site's most popular creators, including a horror mystery series with PewDiePie (aka Felix Kjellberg) and a documentary about Superwoman (aka Lilly Singh).


In its anatomy of Red's making, The Verge argues that the new subscription service could mark a dramatic turn in YouTube's business:

"With Red, YouTube is signaling a definitive shift from an ad-funded video-hosting service to a media company that will eventually go head to head with Hulu and Netflix. YouTube has the potential to dominate the industry: if just 5 percent of its US viewers were to sign up for the service, it would add more than a billion dollars in annual revenue to the company's bottom line."

But will YouTube, which turned 10 this year, be able to sell its users something they've been used to getting for free?

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