YouTube re­brands stream­ing ser­vices

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - BUSINESSREPORT - By Benny Evan­ge­lista

Google is reshuf­fling and re­nam­ing its YouTube stream­ing mu­sic and video ser­vices to bet­ter com­pete against Ap­ple and Spo­tify.

Google next week will in­tro­duce YouTube Mu­sic, a free mu­sic stream­ing ser­vice sup­ported by ad­ver­tis­ing, with the abil­ity to cre­ate playlists and dis­cover new songs, the com­pany said in a blog post. But the com­pany is also start­ing YouTube Mu­sic Pre­mium, a $9.99-amonth ad-free ser­vice.

This might be con­fus­ing for sub­scribers of Google Play Mu­sic, which also starts at the same price. Those sub­scribers will also get a YouTube Mu­sic Pre­mium mem­ber­ship, although at some point, it will re­place Google Play Mu­sic.

And the new ser­vices will sub­sume the $9.99-a-month YouTube Red, the com­pany’s movie and orig­i­nal TV se­ries ser­vice that started in 2015. That ser­vice’s new name will be YouTube Pre­mium, which will still in­clude ac­cess to pop­u­lar orig­i­nal shows like “Youth & Con­se­quences,” “Step Up: High Wa­ter” and the pop­u­lar “Karate Kid” spinoff “Co­bra Kai.”

How­ever, YouTube Pre­mium will cost $11.99

per month, $2 more per month than YouTube Red, “be­cause it in­cludes our brand new YouTube Mu­sic ser­vice,” which is free, prod­uct man­ager Elias Ro­man wrote on YouTube’s cor­po­rate blog.

“If you’re al­ready a YouTube Red (soon to be YouTube Pre­mium) mem­ber, don’t worry, you’ll still en­joy your cur­rent price,” Ro­man wrote.

The shuf­fling is Google’s at­tempt to clar­ify what it of­fers while try­ing to “over­come the mo­men­tum of Spo­tify and Ap­ple,” said Russ Crup­nick, man­ag­ing part­ner of the in­dus­try re­search and anal­y­sis firm Mu­sicWatch.

Count­ing the num­ber of peo­ple who go to YouTube to lis­ten to or watch mu­sic videos, Google has about 130 mil­lion users an­nu­ally, Crup­nick said.

“More say that they use YouTube ‘most of­ten’ for mu­sic stream­ing than any other ser­vice, and far more than Ap­ple Mu­sic,” he said in an email. How­ever, “there’s been a lot of con­fu­sion over the pre­mium tiered Google of­fer­ings like Play and Red, so it’s im­por­tant to make that much clearer to the con­sumer.”

One com­menter on YouTube’s blog said the change might help end un­in­tended con­fu­sion with a com­pletely dif­fer­ent site.

“YouTube Red is now YouTube Pre­mium ... and sounds less like porn site RedTube,” Derek Ross wrote. “Con­grats on fi­nally mak­ing the change!”

Though YouTube is part of Google, the in­ter­net gi­ant has strug­gled to ra­tio­nal­ize its on­line con­sumer ser­vices, var­i­ously of­fered un­der the Google, YouTube and An­droid brands. YouTube Red it­self was a re­brand­ing of a ser­vice launched in 2014 called YouTube Mu­sic Key.

YouTube also has a sep­a­rate live-TV subscription ser­vice, YouTube TV, which costs $40 a month. YouTube TV does not in­clude a YouTube Red (now YouTube Pre­mium) subscription, but both ser­vices cur­rently of­fer ac­cess to YouTube Red orig­i­nal shows.

YouTube Mu­sic head Lyor Cohen said last year that Google Play Mu­sic and YouTube Red would even­tu­ally merge.

YouTube Mu­sic starts Tues­day with a soft launch in the United States, Aus­tralia, New Zealand and Mex­ico. South Korea will only get YouTube Pre­mium.

The ser­vices will ex­pand to Aus­tria, Canada, Den­mark, Fin­land, France, Ger­many, Ire­land, Italy, Norway, Rus­sia, Spain, Swe­den, Switzer­land and the United King­dom “in the com­ing weeks,” Ro­man said.

Noam Galai / Getty Images

YouTube Chief Busi­ness Of­fi­cer Robert Kyncl speaks at YouTube Brand­cast 2018 at Ra­dio City Mu­sic Hall May 3.

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