YouTube has announced a massive slate of new original content from the likes of Kevin Hart, Ellen DeGeneres, Rhett and Link, Hannah Hart, The Slow Mo Guys, Demi Lovato and more. Sounds good, right? But the truly interesting thing about all this content is that – despite being funded and produced by YouTube – none of it will be hosted on YouTube’s paid subscription service ‘YouTube Red’. Instead, each piece will be presented for free on the site and backed up with advertising.
Perhaps I’m being too harsh, but choosing to keep this prime, original programming outside of Red’s paywall appears to demonstrate an astounding lack of faith in the service. Here we have original content from global stars like Ellen and Kevin Hart and shows from some the world’s biggest YouTubers; these seem like projects that would be perfect for Red. Yet YouTube is keeping them away from the Red Zone, which is not good news for a service that has always demonstrated an astounding lack of bang for your buck. The service launched with a measly selection of shows and hasn’t done much to improve things since. It also doesn’t help that YouTube was forced to cancel season 2 of ‘Scare PewDiePie’, one YouTube Red’s flagship shows.
Can YouTube pull ‘Red’ back from the brink? It’s becoming increasingly unlikely. The service reportedly had 1.5 million active users at the end of 2016. This may seem high, but when compared to Netflix’s 98 million, it falls pretty far short. You may argue that it is unfair to compare YouTube Red and Netflix, but why is it? They both cost $10 a month and both have the backing of massive corporations. It is merely the case that (unsurprisingly) audiences seem more willing to pay for a vast selection of TV shows and movies than a service that has produced less than 50 pieces of original content in its lifetime.
There is a silver lining in all this though; it appears as if YouTube isn’t looking to dump Red altogether, but rather to radically refresh it. The company is reportedly investing in million-dollar TV shows for the service, which are intended to rival the likes of HBO. It seems that (shockingly) they have worked out that people don’t want to pay $10 a month for a threadbare selection of content, but might be willing to splash out for some Game Of Thrones-style high production entertainment.
That being said, with internet piracy the way it is and the price point still seeming far too high (it needs to be emphasised that $10 a month for YouTube Red is nuts), it will remain to see if this gamble will pay off (it won’t).