It might sound like a terrible idea, but YouTube could start charging users who want to watch videos on the platform in 4K, making the resolution exclusive to its $12-per-month Premium service. There’s no confirmation that owner Google will go down this route as it could only be a test to gauge reaction, though such a move would obviously cause a lot of anger from creators and viewers alike.
As reported by MacRumors, users on Reddit and YouTube have been posting screenshots of the 2160p/4K resolution option for YouTube videos showing as a feature available only to YouTube Premium subscribers, seemingly adding another benefit alongside the lack of ads to its $12 pm/$120 per year service.
We don’t know if this is a test among a limited subset of users in various countries or something Google has now started rolling out—this writer can still access 4K videos on standard YouTube. There’s also the possibility that it was some unintentional error on YouTube’s part (or a hoax), but that seems unlikely.
The last big news from YouTube Premium was that subscribers could claim a Stadia gaming bundle for free. Google’s streaming service announced it would be closing in January, and it is offering full refunds for most Stadia hardware and software purchases, so perhaps YouTube Premium is looking at other ways of attracting new subscribers. Google says it has 50 million subs combined across YouTube Premium and Music, which pales in comparison to big players such as Netflix.
While the plan would likely send some people to YouTube Premium, it’s hard to imagine it’d be enough to make the outcry worthwhile. And what would be the next YouTube Premium-exclusive feature? HDR videos? 60 frames per second? The latest Steam survey shows that few participants have 4K monitors, but many people use the YouTube app on their 4K/HDR smart televisions.
This could all be part of Google revamping YouTube Premium with new features now that Stadia isn’t going to be a focus—we might even see the service’s price drop. But would you be willing to pay for YouTube, even if it’s free of ads and comes in 4K?