In many ways, YouTube Red Originals are trying to pick up where the idea of subscription channels on YouTube mostly fell apart. YouTube itself is massive, and offering what basically amounted to two or three videos a week that didn't have ads against the ocean of content that did meant you never really noticed the difference. YouTube Red gives a site-wide benefit before you look at the addition of unique content, almost as though it gets added as a bonus. Make no mistake, though, for YouTube the original content is the main event. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon have all proven the subscription model for an ocean of ad-free content is what many users want, and now YouTube is faced with the challenge of giving production companies a reason to come to YouTube over these now mainstream content sites.
The first step in this process, as is often the case, is giving users a reason to sign up. It was easy to secure the first wave of subscribers by offering an ad-free experience or by lumping it in with Play Music All Access subscriptions, but now it's time to focus on the second wave. To get there, YouTube first needs to figure out how to quickly explain the benefits of the service to a new user. Right now, that's not something they are doing particularly well.
If you head to YouTube without signing in right now, there's nothing on the homepage about YouTube Originals. Nothing linking to Scare PewDiePie, Lazer Team, or any of the other first wave videos that were released exclusively to YouTube Red. In a way, this makes sense. YouTube is first and foremost a place to consume whatever video you want, and the sudden appearance of a paywall for content being advertised on the homepage could be immediately off-putting to the younger audience who basically view YouTube as a place for unlimited free videos. That having been said, the only indication that YouTube Red exists at all on the homepage is a small icon in the bottom left corner, with no real explanation for what it does until you click.
Some of this isn't a problem yet because it's early days for YouTube Red Originals. There's only a handful of videos in this section right now, and it's unlikely these four videos are going to appeal to everyone. Netflix had a similar problem in the early days of their original programming, and it wasn't until House of Cards and Orange is the new Black that Netflix really seemed ti figure out that promoting these exclusives on the homepage was just as big a deal as the content creators self promoting. YouTube might be waiting for the next wave of original content before actively pushing this setup, but in the mean time it creates a space of doubt for those wondering if shelling out $10 every month is really worth the content that YouTube themselves seem to only be sharing as a lure.
Either way you look at it, the next step is going to be incredibly important for the success of YouTube Red. It's still going to be a while before anyone is seriously comparing this setup to the existing subscription streaming exclusives available today, but it's a solid first step. Now YouTube needs to do a better job telling everyone about it.
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