According to a new report by The Verge, there’s only 1.5 million users who are subscribed to Google’s $9.99/month streaming service YouTube Red, a variant of the billion-users-per-month platform YouTube. As of late summer, this is how the numbers supposedly stack up, with another million currently using the service but on the free trial plan.
According to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation, YouTube Red had 1.5 million paying subscribers as of late summer, with another 1 million users signed up on a trial basis (and not paying the monthly fee). Those numbers underscore just how difficult it is to convince millions of people to pay for something they’ve had free access to for over a decade. They also reflect the interest level in YouTube Music, which launched last November and requires a Red subscription to take full advantage of.
The main cause behind YouTube Red’s slow crawl of growing user numbers is likely due to availability. Currently (and since day one), Red is available in only the US, Australia, New Zealand, and Mexico. This is a major problem. If you don’t have wide availability, you won’t have a wide user database, hence this report. As The Verge notes, TIDAL, the failing music streaming service with a focus on bringing high-fidelity tunes to the public, was able to gather 2.1 million users after its first year operating due to it being available in various different countries with the total being much greater than four. Clearly, this makes a huge difference in the case of whether you want users or not. And by the looks of it, Google wants users. They just must assume everyone will jump to Red because it’s Google.
Interestingly, despite the low user numbers, YouTube Red seems to be holding up pretty well in overall partner and user satisfaction. Creators who release exclusive content to Red subscribers are seeing huge jumps in view and subscriber counts on their channels, while users of Red are 75% more likely to stream content on their TV, something probably due to the ad-free experience. Plus, Google’s planning to release more exclusive content by year-end alongside in 2017. The company had this to say in a statement to The Verge.
“We’re pleased with momentum behind YouTube Red and we’re seeing healthy growth of members each month,” a YouTube spokesperson said. “While we don’t release or comment on speculative numbers, we’re seeing strong engagement of the service in the four countries we’ve launched, leading us to invest in more originals series and movies for 2017 and increased marketing of YouTube Music.”
Obviously, it doesn’t look like Red is a bad subscription service. It’s just not popular. And it really looks like Google’s got plenty of confidence in it, even though it’s kinda failing. Regardless, it’s interesting to see Red with such low numbers after a year in business. Whether this will set the stage for the foreseeable future or not is beyond me, but if Google wants to make the future positive, they should really make Red more widely available.