I have a dirty confession to make. I have an adblocker installed on my laptop. I know, it’s terrible, and I do feel guilty for enjoying much of the great online content without supporting the websites and producers that make it. But my god, I hate ads. The worst is the YouTube ads, because I spend so much of my time on the website, in lieu of owning a TV. While my Xbox cannot escape the bombardment of annoying, tacky and often disproportionately loud adverts, my laptop provides me with access to unfettered video entertainment.
This being said, I may soon be able to enjoy YouTube without the guilty conscience. YouTube Red will eventually make its way over to the UK, and when it does I will automatically be enrolled because I currently pay for Google Play Music.
This is the first reason I love the concept of Red. It ties in seamlessly with an existing service, providing great value for customers. I was an early adopter of Google Play Music, so am only paying £7.99 for unlimited streaming of a music catalogue millions of tracks in size. If the rollout in America is used as a standard of expectation, I anticipate being able to keep my GPM subscription price, and get access to Red. That’s a super useful addition to something I already pay for, at no extra cost or effort to me.
Second reason I am looking forward to Red – It removes ads everywhere. This isn’t just limited to the PC experience, my Xbox and my phone will no longer subjugate me into watching adverts. This will be incredibly useful when watching YouTube on my phone, as I can save a little bit of data, and buffer a little bit less – Curse you Virgin Mobile for not having 4G!
On the subject of mobile, I will be able to download videos for offline viewing. If I know that I’m going to be travelling somewhere without data or wifi, I can preload my phone with videos before I head off. Additionally, Red will allow me to use my phone while videos play in the background. This being said, I’ve had the ability to download YouTube videos and play them in the background for a while now on my phone, although I’m not entirely sure why. Either way, being able to do this on my iPad as well will be a great addition to its multimedia prowess.
Surprisingly, one of the few things I don’t care for with the new Red service is the access to exclusive content created by YouTube partners. PewDiePie is among said partners, and I can honestly say I’ve never once found a video of his compelling, even if I do admire his work ethic, dedication and fan following. I cannot help but feel that this content will be tacky, insipid, and is being created purely because Google lacks faith in the core concept and wants to throw as many excuses to sign up as possible. Not a bad idea, but realistically, it’s not going to pay off.
What would be exciting is if YouTube Red eventually opened the doors to streaming of movies and TV programmes from Google Play. If you don’t own an Android device or a Chromecast, you might not know that Google has its own content service, similar to iTunes or Amazon Prime, where you can rent or purchase media. If Red is the beginning of Google moving to take on the aforementioned platforms, or posing a threat to Netflix, I don’t think I would be able to endorse the product enough, or contain my excitement.
Google has all the pieces in place to become a significant player in the world of content distribution, but for whatever reason continue to dither around the edges. There seems to be a disconnect between the different elements of their company. Perhaps the move from Google to Alphabet will be the impetus needed to finally achieve company cohesion, but it’s difficult to judge at this point.
There is a bit of an argument as to whether or not Red constitutes a good deal for YouTube Creators, but an examination of the existing literature, as well as a bit of research into user browsing habits suggests that it is. Without it running for a few months, it will be impossible to know if it plays out that way. Either way, from a consumer perspective, YouTube Red is nothing but a good deal, and I welcome a non-intrusive way to finally start supporting the content creators I love. More importantly, I’m excited to see whether Google has the self-awareness to appreciate how this could open doors to further eco-system integration. It feels like Google has grown up, and is starting to take seriously the importance of providing a cohesive answer to Apple’s domination of content distribution – especially now they are finally going to be offering Podcasts too!