YouTube Considering Paid, Ad-Free Subscription Service

Sometimes you have to wait a dreaded 30 seconds before you can watch a video on YouTube while an ad for something you don't care about gets its screen time. Soon, you may be able to bypass this all together - for a price. At yesterday's Recode Mobile conference, newly appointed head of YouTube Susan Wojcicki explained that the company is experimenting with a paid subscription model of the online video service that would allow users to access it without ads.

While Wojcicki did not go into details, she explained that she's considering different types of subscription options to give YouTube users more ways to interact with the service. “YouTube right now is ad-supported, which is great because it has enabled us to scale to a billion users; but there’s going to be a point where people don’t want to see the ads,” Wojcicki said at Recode Mobile. "We’re thinking about how to give users options.”

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YouTube has already quietly toyed with subscriptions - in 2013, the company let content creators sell subscriptions to their work, but has done little to promote the option. It's unclear how a subscription model for ad-free content would affect YouTube's revenue, especially since it's estimated that YouTube received nearly $5.60 billion in gross ad revenue this year alone.

The idea of a YouTube subscription model could elevate the site's content - and that's what YouTube wants. The company has been pouring more money into its partner program and content creators recently, as stars like PewDiePie, Bethany Mota and Shane Dawson become more well-known. Allowing users to access that content without ads further legitimizes the service, the content creators and the content itself even more in the world of online video - and among competition like Netflix and Hulu.

There's no word on when we could see a YouTube subscription model - or YouTube's mysterious music service that has been rumored for quite some time - but Wojcicki made it sound like subscriptions would arrive sooner rather than later.

Valentina Palladino

Valentina is Commerce Editor at Engadget and has covered consumer electronics for a number of publications including Tom's Guide, Wired, Laptop Mag and Ars Technica, with a particular focus on wearables, PCs and other mobile tech.