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YouTube Red to launch in “dozens” of countries this year, thanks to music industry deals

By | Published on Friday 12 January 2018


YouTube is aiming to launch its Red subscription service in “dozens” more countries this year. In an interview with French newspaper Les Echoes, the Google-owned video platform’s Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said that new deals with Universal Music and others would help a wider rollout of the paid tier.

Currently available in the US, Mexico, Australia, New Zealand and South Korea, YouTube Red was originally launched in 2015 – replacing music-specific subscription service Music Key, which never made it out of beta. It provides ad-free access to the whole YouTube website, as well as access to exclusive content, for a monthly fee.

“Our advertising revenue accounts for most of the total [income], of course”, said Kyncl. “But our paid offering is the fastest growing [revenue stream]”.

Universal Music’s recently announced new deal with YouTube provides “licences to distribute their catalogue on the free and paid part of our platform and all over the world”, he said. He added that other deals are also being negotiated. “All this work now allows us to launch YouTube Red around the world”, he said, adding that Red “will be launched in dozens of markets in 2018”.

Hang on though. What about all that talk about a new standalone, paid-for YouTube music service? Far from being something that is definitely going to happen, Kyncl said that this was something currently being considered.

“YouTube Red is all about YouTube, including its original, ad-free content and a mobile music app [akin to] Apple Music”, he said. “Its price is really competitive and its growth very fast. It is not too late to get started on a global scale, the rise of this market is still in its infancy. But it is true that we are thinking about a better segmentation of the product between music and video”.

The interview actually focussed more on the controversies last year around adverts being placed against extremist content on the YouTube platform, which saw a number of big name brands pull their advertising from the service. Kyncl said that those advertisers have now returned to YouTube, but conceded that some changes to the platform are necessary.

“If I had to take an analogy, I would say that with YouTube we have built a village that has become a real city”, he said. “It is therefore imperative to put in place appropriate infrastructures: police, local authorities, and even schools, if we continue on this metaphor”.

He said that YouTube would “have to go even further” in its efforts to be more transparent. This will include new monthly reports about “problematic content” on the platform. He also conceded that more human intervention is necessary.

Automated systems in the last six month have done “the equivalent of the work of 180,000 people [working] 40 hours per week” in identifying problematic content, he said. However, a very small amount of content uploaded still needs “a human eye” to see possible issues. The company therefore plans to hire 10,000 more moderators this year.