You may soon have to buy YouTube Premium to watch 4K YouTube videos, a new user test suggests.
according to one Reddit Thread (opens in new tab) highlighted in Leaker Alvin’s Twitter (opens in new tab), several non-Premium YouTube users reported seeing 4K (and higher) resolution video options limited to YouTube Premium subscribers on their iOS devices. For these individuals, videos are currently only available for streaming in resolution up to 1440p (QHD).
The apparent experiment appears to be only affecting a handful of YouTube users for now, but it suggests that Google’s owner is toying with the idea of implementing a site-wide paywall for access to high-quality videos in the future.
So, after testing up to 12 YouTube ads for non-Premium users, now some users have reported that they also need to get a Premium account just to watch 4K videos. pic.twitter.com/jJodoAxeDpOctober 1, 2022
It’s no secret that Google has been looking for new ways to monetize its YouTube platform for the past few months. In September, the company introduced five non-skippable ads to some YouTube users as part of a separate test — an unexpected development that naturally didn’t sit well with much of the YouTube community.
A resolution paywall seems like a more palatable approach from Google. While annoying, the change is unlikely to provoke the same level of ire from non-paying YouTube users as excessive ads, as many smartphones still max out at QHD resolution anyway.
Of course, if you encourage those who Does worrying about high resolution viewing to invest in the platform’s Premium subscription package can also be more profitable for Google. After all, YouTube Premium, which offers ad-free viewing, background playback and the ability to download videos for offline use, currently costs $11.99 / £11.99 / AU$14.99 a month.
Suffice it to say that the subscription service hasn’t taken off in the way Google had hoped since its launch in 2014. Currently, only around 50 million users are subscribed to YouTube Premium, while around 2 billion people actively use YouTube on a monthly basis.
Can adding 4K video to the Premium perks package increase that number? Only time will tell. We’ll be keeping an eye on our own YouTube account to see if this resolution paywall becomes permanent in the coming months.