We all know YouTube has been planning to launch a completely ad-free subscription, but the details have been sorely lacking on things like how much it will cost, what will be included, and when it will launch. There may finally be some answers in a report by Recode that points to October 22nd as a probable launch date. The subscription is expected to run for $10 / month and would completely remove all paid advertising from YouTube and include the current benefits of Google Play Music Unlimited.
Rumors about a premium service option have circulated for years, particularly after the first report of a music-focused streaming subscription surfaced, which ultimately became YouTube Music Key. The rumors were confirmed earlier this year when YouTube began notifying channel operators about a change to the YouTube Partner Program terms of service that specifically detailed an "ads-free version of YouTube for a monthly fee." The new terms went into effect on June 15th.
Recode reports that a batch of emails has been sent out to channel owners (YouTube Partner Program members) asking them to agree to the new terms by October 22nd or their monetized videos will be switched to private until the new agreement is accepted. This doesn't necessarily mean the new subscription option will launch on that day (or possibly the next), but it certainly seems likely. One of our own tipsters has confirmed YouTube Red will be the name for the all-in-one subscription.
Here are the relevant excepts from the email to Recode's Peter Kafka:
"As you heard in our previous emails, we want to ensure that fans who choose to pay for an ads-free experience can watch all the same videos that are available on the ads-supported experience. That’s why we’re asking you to update your agreement to reflect the updated terms for the ads-free service."
"To accept, simply log into YouTube.com as “pakafka” from a desktop or laptop and follow the prompts by October 22nd."
"If you haven’t signed by that date, your videos will no longer be available for public display or monetization in the United States. [...] And of course, at any time, you can accept the updated terms which will make your videos public and monetizable again."
Evidently, the ad-free subscription will begin in the United States. It will surely reach other countries in time, but it may take a while to work out any legal issues associated with rights management.
The report goes on to say that the membership will include Play Music Unlimited, which is already priced at $9.99 / month, and will remove paid advertisements from YouTube. Of course, the membership will not affect things like movie rentals, paid channels, or any other pay-to-view content – it just removes ads. If the $10 price is accurate, Play Music Unlimited and YouTube Music Key don't make much sense at their current price point, so they will probably be either removed entirely or discounted in price. There's no information regarding users with $7.99 grandfathered pricing.
Since the anticipated timing of the launch is so close, it's likely the YouTube Red subscription will be announced at Google's September 29th event. This can give Google a great opportunity to position the new subscription alongside the new Chromecast that's also expected, especially if there's a trial period or promotion for Chromecast buyers.