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Google's YouTube Red deal: Sign, or we'll make you disappear

Herding video-makers into a new pasture

Google says most of its video creators have signed up to new subscription contracts for its pay-to-view YouTube Red service, rather than have their videos pulled from public display at YouTube.

YouTube Red is Google's ad-free subscription service, and rolls up both music and video for $9.99 a month. Google Play subscribers will be opted in, and find that Red videos will be available offline too. Amateur uploaders aren't affected: what Google wants to do is nail down producers who have drawn an audience, and who already draw a tangible quantity of shared advertising revenue.

However the terms of trade have raised hackles. Indie music labels were offered similar take-it-or-leave contracts last summer, and again, the threat is to remove the material entirely, rather than allow the creator to remain on ad free YouTube.

TechCrunch notes that Google cut the revenue share this year to 55 per cent, a lower number than offered by rivals. "To the victor go the spoils — YouTube dominates online video to an almost unimaginable degree," comments John Gruber.

When indie trade groups received the take-it-or-disappear contracts last summer, they lodged a formal complaint with the European Commission's competition authority for emergency action.

Google's YouTube chief quit soon afterwards.

"You should probably be trying to dominate whatever market, and break any rule you can get away with breaking. It's the job of regulators and the Courts to stop that,” said German publisher Mark Chung, former bassist of German industrial band Einsturzende Neubauten.

Given that YouTube's dominance of streaming video exceeds its dominance of streaming music, it will be interesting to see what the response of Europe's competition authorities will be.

Some expect the Red service to launch this year - but don't hold your breath. The subscription YouTube has been morphing for three years behind the scenes as Google decides what to include and how to bring it to market. ®

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