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YouTube Announces Ad-Free Red Subscription

YouTube, the world's largest video site, has unveiled Red, an all-in-one subscription service that will include a streaming music service as well as original video programming from its most…

The world’s largest video site has unveiled YouTube Red, an all-in-one subscription service that will include a streaming music service as well as original video programming from its most well-known creators.

Speaking from a launch event on Wednesday at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles, chief business officer Robert Kyncl said Red was “a new way to experience YouTube without ads,” adding, “today marks a new chapter in giving fans the choices they want when watching YouTube.”

Pricing for YouTube Red has been set at $9.99 per month — $12.99 for iOS — with a launch eyed for Oct. 28.

Red essentially replaces the previously invite-only Music Key service, which has been in beta since late 2014. “YouTube Red will incorporate a feature painfully missing from the beta of Music Key: background play, as well as offline viewing of videos,” Kyncl said.

In addition to Red, YouTube announced a standalone music app, simply called YouTube Music, that will include a free ad-supported product. Manuel Bronstein, product dev of YouTube’s music app, says the company “wanted to do something unique,” and focused on “three pillars” during its development: That “music should never stop… people want to watch and listen… and want more of the music they love.” 

That last line is in reference to the dearth of derivative and user-uploaded works on the platform, such as remixes and live performance footage. Remuneration on those live performances, especially user uploads, remains a thorny issue for all companies that rely on the fair use provision of the DMCA for their business model.

Red’s sales pitch is ad-free viewing of the company’s original content plus access to its licensed music catalog for one price. There will also be an ad-supported tier of the site, with all premium content eventually being available for free.

Susanne Daniels, vp, global head of original programming for YouTube who was until recently a development executive at MTV, explained that YouTube’s original programming will get a January debut, which will include Lilly Singh‘s tour documentary A Trip to Unicorn Island, the Fine Brothers’ 10 episode sitcom Sing It and — naturally — PewDiePie, who will have his own “reality adventure series,” as Daniels explained it.

YouTube has been providing popular creators with free studio time through its “Spaces,” multi-level studios the company has built in New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo, Sao Paulo, Berlin and Paris. Those creators will — we assume — form the backbone of the company’s push into original video. Funding those spaces, as well as the broader development of its subscription service, no doubt played a part in its failing to turn a profit last year. The company is valued at $70 billion. It has also rolled out tools for musicians and held workshops in the hopes of directing artists to optimize their use of the platform.

The company considered the release of Music Key a sort of “grand beta test” to determine how music fans would utilize a streaming service within the platform. As CEO Susan Wojcicki told the Brainstorm Tech event this past July, “We launched [Music Key] to a set of very heavy music users. They’ve given us a lot of feedback and we’ve taken that feedback and we are readjusting it based on that feedback. We have plans to launch later this year.”

Armed with a year of data, expectations will be high for the service’s functionality. We know one thing at least: mobile will be everything. Asked about her company’s focus, Wojcicki said: “Mobile, mobile, mobile.”

Not to be outdone, Apple is reportedly launching a new version of its Apple TV next week, and debuted a some exclusive content yesterday, according to Re/code. With competition heating up, Amazon recently decided to stop selling Google and Apple video-streaming devices as it focuses on its own Prime Instant Video service.