It looks like Google is planning on placing YouTube 4K videos behind a paywall. When attempting to access the Ultra HD resolution version of the video, Google is telling some users they need to purchase a YouTube Premium subscription.
In a potential step backwards for the free availability of 4K video, Google may be dangling those extra pixels as a carrot for the ad-free Premium tier.
The 2160p option, where available, has been free for all users to watch, provided they have a compatible display and a solid internet connection.
However, over the weekend, users on social media (via TechCrunch) began seeing a Premium-only option. Those accessing the site without paying could only watch those videos in 1440p. Right now it appears to be a test, rather than a full launch, so it’s possible Google is gauging feedback before rolling out to all users.
While it’s not the biggest deal on a mobile device or laptop, people watching on a large 4K television at home will certainly notice the difference when watching a video they’ve endured ads to get to.
Earlier this month, it emerged Google is going farther in that regard, with some users subjected to 11 unskippable ads before being able to watch the video. That was also perceived as a way to leverage the YouTube Premium service, which costs $11.99/£11.99 a month.
As well as ad-free access to YouTube, it also enables users to access YouTube Music ad-free, offline, and in the background as you do other things on your mobile device. Getting rid of the ads is a major bonus if you watch a lot of YouTube, but let’s face it, most savvy users know an easy way to download a YouTube video if they really want a copy of it stored locally on their device.
Perhaps ramping up the ads on the free version and restricting 4K to Premium subscribers might convince more people to embrace the paywall. The company says it has more than 50 million subscribers across YouTube Music and YouTube Premium. YouTube TV subscribers actually pay $20 a month for the limited 4K content available via the service, so this isn’t unheard of.
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