About two weeks ago, a post appeared on Reddit’s r/mildlyinfuriating subreddit by user u/Ihatesmokealarms claiming that their access to 4K video (2160p) on YouTube is being locked behind a Premium subscription. In the screenshot that the user shared, the menu where you’d typically change the resolution now has a new bit of text written under the 2160p resolution setting.
Instead of just being another option like the others, the screenshot seems to indicate that the 2160p resolution is now a Premium feature and if users wanted to access it they’d have to tap to upgrade to Premium.
Obviously, it’s worth noting that this screenshot seems to have only come from one user, and many other YouTube users in the thread including myself don’t seem to have this limitation. When it comes to reports with only one data point, you should take this with a grain of salt because doctoring an image like this for some quick internet clout isn’t all that difficult.
However, it is interesting to explore the possibility of whether YouTube would do something like this by looking at some of their competition.
Now, for those who are unfamiliar, Premium is YouTube’s monthly subscription plan that costs RM17.90.month. For that monthly fee, you will get access to ad-free YouTube, the ability to play YouTube videos in the background, offline downloads and even YouTube Music Premium. There are also Family and Student plans with different rates to lower the cost of subscription per customer.
Now, up until this point, YouTube has not limited their video streaming quality for free users. This means that whether you’re on Premium or not, you’d still be able to watch the video as the creator intended at full resolution. This is unlike subscription services like Netflix and Spotify who limit their best quality to subscribers only, forcing free users to deal with lower quality or upgrade.
This means that doing something like this isn’t completely out of the realm of possibility, and has in fact been done before by the other players in the market. But YouTube is slightly different from something like Netflix which relies on big budget productions and full-fledged TV shows for a majority of their content. YouTube is still the platform for user-generated content for better or worse, and because of this I’d argue that it has the most “passionate” fans.
That being said, the state of YouTube ads in recent times has been, in my opinion, quite insufferable. Speaking as a single data point, I’m constantly being served either one long unskippable ad or multiple short unskippable ads. But the worst part is that it’s from apps and services that I think are super dodgy.
That being said, I don’t think this change would personally affect me too much because I watch most of my videos on 1080p unless it’s for work purposes. The toll it takes on my computer is just far less taxing at 1080p so I can leave whatever video I want running on my second monitor while I game or do other stuff on my main monitor. And if we’re talking about mobile, I think the effect would be far less significant.
The only worry is where would the line stop? Today it may be 4K, but who knows how much this will change over time? For context, Netflix only lets Premium subscribers (RM55/month) get access to 4K video resolution. Even the RM45/month standard plan caps you at 1080p.