YouTube Premium may soon be required to watch 4K videos

YouTube on phone
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

Recent evidence surfaced on Reddit suggests that soon the only way to watch videos in high-res 2160p resolution will be via a YouTube Premium subscription. That’s an $11.99 a month charge for crisper videos, which seems like a steep price to pay. 

This potential revelation comes from Reddit user 'Ihatesmokealarms', who claims to have set their service to the U.S version, after they posted screenshots of the resolution options for a video they were watching. The screenshot shows the option for the highest resolution of 2160p and the dreaded text “Premium - tap to upgrade." 

A screenshot of the YouTube resolutions menu with the 2160p resolution accompanied by the words "Premium- tap to upgrade"

(Image credit: Reddit/Ihatesmokealarms)

The news comes hot on the heels of the platform’s unpopular trial of up to ten unskippable ads before videos. Fortunately, that trial ultimately proved unsuccessful.

YouTube Premium has plenty to offer subscribers, including an ad-free service with YouTube Music (great for downloading songs and listening offline) and exclusive content. But to start locking off features from the basic service could cause a backlash; 2.6 billion people use YouTube every month, yet only 50 million people pay for Premium. 

As of yet, there has been no confirmation from Google (which owns YouTube) on this potential measure but 4K TVs are not purely aspirational technology these days. Some of the best 4K TVs are competitively priced (see the deal block below), and if YouTube were to deny potentially millions of people access to what is fast becoming a standard feature, it could certainly backfire. 

TCL - 55” Class 6-Series 4K UHD Mini-LED QLED Dolby Vision HDR Roku Smart TV: $749 $649 @BestBuy

TCL - 55” Class 6-Series 4K UHD Mini-LED QLED Dolby Vision HDR Roku Smart TV: $749 $649 @BestBuy

The TCL 6 series is a great 4K TV at a fantastic price, this 55" model is $649 and comes with a fantastic display that can't be beaten by anything short of an OLED. Gaming mode is a fantastic package for PS5 and Xbox Series X owners. 

Of course, this could all be Google testing various features of YouTube that it could integrate into the Premium package, rather than a clear indication that you'll need to pay for 4K in the near future. 

And Google has proved in the past that it will backtrack on initiatives that have proven wildly unpopular with its users. So, time will tell if 4K resolution videos will indeed become a YouTube Premium feature or not. 

Andy Sansom
Trainee Writer

Andy is Tom’s Guide’s Trainee Writer, which means that he currently writes about pretty much everything we cover. He has previously worked in copywriting and content writing both freelance and for a leading business magazine. His interests include gaming, music and sports- particularly Formula One, football and badminton. Andy’s degree is in Creative Writing and he enjoys writing his own screenplays and submitting them to competitions in an attempt to justify three years of studying.  

  • bsc249
    Aside from that crappy news... after being with them for the last three years and using autopay with verizon, they just shut off my service for no reason. I've never missed a payment and have never been even 1 day late. Nothing has changed, not the credit card, not the pay date, not the autopay, nothing...
    Despite the fact that my bill was paid, both sides just continue to blame the other. Guess I'm finally making the switch to HULU+ TV