3 Changes Coming Down the Pike at YouTube

The landscape of social media has shifted considerably this year, and YouTube is not an exception. The video platform, one of the most used among U.S. adults, has recently announced changes for 2019 as a way for it to remain competitive.

Here are three to look for in 2019:

No More Annotations

YouTube annotations were a big hit with creators when the program launched in 2008, allowing for links to other videos and comments to audiences. But once the platform introduced the End Screen and Cards features, the use of annotations decreased by more than 70%, leading YouTube to announce the discontinuation of the annotations editor in May 2017. Existing annotations were allowed to remain active on the site, however.

But as of January 15, 2019, all existing annotations will be completely removed from the site, the company announced this week. This is primarily because annotations fail to work on mobile devices. Mobile viewing now makes up the majority of YouTube viewership.

Ad-Supported Movies for Free

Starting in October, YouTube quietly rolled out a slew of free-to-watch, ad-supported movies. As of this writing, there are 100 free movies available, including “The Terminator” and “Legally Blonde,” with more likely coming now that the option is public knowledge. YouTube director of product management Rohit Dhawan told AdAge that, “We saw this opportunity based on user demand, beyond just offering paid movies. Can we do ad-supported movies, free to the user? It also presents a nice opportunity for advertisers.”

Dhawan also explained that this may eventually move toward a model where advertisers could pay to sponsor individual movies—especially now that more than 20 percent of YouTube is watched on TV sets, making movie options a welcome addition. Advertisers may also be more willing to advertise on professionally-made films as opposed to lower-quality, potentially objectionable content available on the platform.

Rolling Back Subscription Content

In a related move, an exclusive in The Hollywood Reporter says that YouTube is expected to roll-back its premium subscription program in favor of making all future original programming ad-supported and free to users starting in 2019. “Soon, there won’t be a distinction between programming that is available with ads or without,” the article says. YouTube reportedly will also scale back its scripted content. This "change has raised questions about its willingness to compete for big-budget fare,” especially since it faces competition from streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

The platform plans to maintain the YouTube Premium program, which will include early access to original content in hopes users will still want to pay for the service. It is offering discounted memberships for college students to attract a larger base of paid customers.

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