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YouTube experiment makes 4K videos a Premium-exclusive feature

YouTube experiment makes 4K videos a Premium-exclusive feature

Enlarge (credit: Future Publishing | Getty Images)

Two months ago, Sundar Pichai announced a new era of belt-tightening at Google, leading to the shutdown of the Pixel laptop hardware team, a culling of half of the experimental projects at Area 120, a spinoff of Project Loon’s technology, and the death of Google Stadia. Next up for the icy hand of Google’s budget department might be YouTube. MacRumors reports that YouTube is experimenting with paywalling 4K video resolution for videos, making it exclusive to subscribers of YouTube Premium.

Reports of this experiment hitting some users have been popping up for the past month. When selecting a resolution, every option is available except for “2160p” (4K), which has a little “Premium” tag next to it. That will be $11.99 a month if you want to access videos in the highest resolution. Google’s recently killed game-streaming service, Stadia, had a similar billing setup, where 4K was a premium add-on.

This isn’t the only YouTube revenue-boosting experiment Google has tried lately. Last month, some users saw as many as 10 unskippable ads before a video. Criticism was strong, and Google later called the move an “experiment” that it “concluded,” which apparently means it’s not happening. We could see something similar happen to the idea of paywalling the 4K resolution, depending on how the reception goes. We asked Google PR for comment, but the company said it has nothing to share right now.

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