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YouTube Potentially Reserving Highest Video Quality for Premium Subscribers

Matt Tamanini

As the world of streaming continues to evolve, one of the factors that is beginning to guide the decision-making process for many consumers is picture quality. The increasing adoption of 4K broadcasts has been a major selling point for a certain segment of cord-cutters, meaning that streaming services of all kinds are looking to capitalize on the thirst for the highest quality video.

Now, according to an eagle-eyed streamer on Reddit, as reported by Andy Sansom from Tom's Guide, the world’s largest free streaming service might be preparing to reserve the highest resolution versions of videos on its premium subscription package.

Redditor Ihatesmokealarms first noticed that a video that they were watching restricted the 2160p version behind the YouTube Premium paywall, meaning that they could only watch it at the highest quality by signing up for the streamer’s paid tier.

To date, there has been no confirmation from YouTube, or parent company Google, as to whether or not the service will reserve the highest quality versions of all videos for paid subscribers, or if this was a test for potential introduction down the road. Either way, it would mark a significant move from one of the most popular video providers in the world.

The streamer’s subscription service, YouTube Premium, allows users to watch videos ad-free, to play them when using other apps, to download videos to watch offline, and includes access to YouTube Music Premium. After a free, one-month trial, the plan costs $11.99 per month.

While there are major differences between YouTube’s traditional ad-supported video-on-demand (AVOD) platform and its live TV streaming service YouTube TV, the latter has also made the best video quality increasingly expensive for consumers.

On top of the base subscription of $64.99 per month, YouTube TV’s 4K Plus Add-on comes with an additional $19.99 price tag monthly; the service does regularly offer deals and free trials to the package. While the add-on provides access to TV, movies, and documentaries, one of the biggest draws to the improved resolution is being able to watch live sports in 4K.

YouTube TV’s rollout of 4K features for live sports has been a bit bumpy and often depends on what is available from the original content providers. However, in May, the streamer had to backtrack on plans to air its Major League Baseball Game of the Week in 4K after deciding that “the experience was not ready for our users.”

YouTube TV did eventually add the feature a few weeks later, but it has become a regular waiting game for cord-cutting sports fans who have to wait to see whether or not their games will be in 4K each week or not.

YouTube TV

YouTube TV is a live TV streaming service with more than 60 channels for $64.99/month. This plan includes local channels, 32 of the top 35 cable channels, and regional sports networks (RSNs) in select markets.

With the recent addition of Viacom channels (BET, MTV, Comedy Central, etc.) to the service, they are only without Hallmark and A+E Networks (Lifetime, History, A&E).

They recently added NFL Network and new Sports Plus add-on which include channels like NFL RedZone for $11 a month.

YouTube TV offers select 4K content, including some live sports and on-demand shows, as part of their 4K Plus add-on. The 4K Plus add-on is $19.99 a month and also includes offline downloads and unlimited streams on your home network.

If you want a cheaper service with many of the entertainment channels on YouTube TV, you can subscribe to Philo which includes A+E, Discovery, Viacom, Hallmark, and other channels for just $20 a month after a 7-Day Free Trial.

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