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YouTube debuts student subs as originals strategy evolves


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YouTube has followed other music-streaming services in launching cut-price subscriptions for students, albeit only in the US for now. Full-time students at accredited colleges or universities there will be able to get YouTube Music Premium for $4.99 a month, or YouTube Premium for $6.99 a month – although they can ‘lock in’ the latter for $5.99 a month if they sign up by the end of January.

The pricing gap mirrors that for the non-student subscriptions ($9.99 a month for YouTube Music and $11.99 a month for YouTube Premium). The plans will go head to head with the student offerings for audio music-streaming services, most notably Spotify’s $4.99-a-month offer that includes access to video service Hulu’s ‘limited commercials’ tier as well as Showtime.

There isn’t much data on how popular these plans are, but they are likely to gain in strategic importance as time goes on. Why? Because they’ll be an important way music-streaming services can migrate younger listeners from family plans paid for by parents to their own individual subscriptions – which will then (if all goes well) convert to a full-price subscription when they leave the education system.

Getting back to YouTube, though: there’s a question about the value of the wider-than-just-music YouTube Premium subscription. Reuters reports that YouTube is planning a change in its ‘originals’ strategy, making its commissioned shows available for free supported by advertising, rather than restricting them to premium subscribers.

“The shift in strategy means that starting in 2020, a YouTube Premium subscription will no longer be the only way to watch most original programs, with all users having some access,” claimed the report, which presented the news as coming from YouTube itself, and adding that “some future programing or behind-the-scenes content may remain exclusive to subscribers, if only for a brief time”.

Without exclusive originals, the key reasons to pay for YouTube Premium boil down to ad-free viewing, and the ability to download videos to watch offline. It does mean larger audiences (and potentially decent-money brand partnerships) for YouTube’s original shows. We’ve seen this at work already with music in the form of ‘Simply Complicated’, a documentary about Demi Lovato. Released in October 2017, it has since notched up 23.8m views, with a director’s cut subsequently released behind the Premium paywall.

Stuart Dredge

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