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YouTube Red to launch in the UK ‘at some point’

YouTube’s subscription service YouTube Red will launch in the UK “at some point”, though no date has been confirmed for the rollout, according to Google’s European president Matt Brittin.

Matt Brittin

Matt Brittin

Speaking at a Royal Television Society (RTS) event in London last night, Brittin, who is president of Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and business operations at Google, said that the SVOD service had so far proved relatively popular in markets like the US and Mexico and that YouTube is “learning from that”.

However, he said that YouTube has no ambition to follow what Netflix is doing in the SVOD space, and stressed that YouTube will overwhelmingly remain a platform for people to find, share and upload content.

Asked on stage about rumours that YouTube Red would be coming to the UK next year, Brittin replied: “At some point. I’m not sure we’ve got a date as yet.”

Responding later to a question from DTVE about YouTube’s content strategy for Red in the UK and about whether the service would go live elsewhere in Europe he said: “We haven’t announced launch plans. We’re in five markets globally at the moment, but it takes a bunch of time to get there and we’d like to commission more content.”

He added, to laugher from the room, that “Rich is here from YouTube if you want to pitch him shows.”

Elsewhere in the discussion, which covered a range of topics – including YouTube’s place in the wider broadcast ecosystem, fake news, and how the service is clamping down on inappropriate content – Brittin referenced the export opportunity for British content online.

He said that while commissioned content is “a tiny, tiny fraction today of watch-time on YouTube and video content on YouTube”, the video site’s audience is also “watching 80% of the content outside the country that it was created in”.

“Yes we’re commissioning long-form content for our paid service,” said Brittin. “We want to commission as much of that as possible, frankly, from people in the UK. I’d like to do more of that here, because I think we’ve got an amazing creative industry and the world knows that. That’s why it’s such a big opportunity for the UK industry.”

The comments follow recent reports that comedian Jack Whitehall will host a YouTube-commissioned football show in the run-up to the 2018 World Cup that will be made by Fulwell 73, the production company behind James Corden hit Carpool Karaoke.

Discussing the UK TV industry in broader terms, Brittin said that, having visited events like the Edinburgh TV Festival a few years ago “incognito”, he found it to be a “wonderful industry but it’s incredibly inward looking”.

“I really urge everyone – and don’t take this as me being rude, but as a Brit who’s proud of and grown up with our amazing content – [to be] really getting out there and looking at all those trends, following what people are doing and experimenting with different platforms and technologies,” he said.

“I really urge you to do that, because I really believe there’s an enormous opportunity for original British content and we need some positive opportunities for export right now. The audience is there and it’s growing, it’s going to double in the next five years. So [there is] a huge opportunity.”

Asked if YouTube wants to help the UK TV ecology to stay intact, Brittin said: “I don’t think we’ve got some sort of grand design on how all the pieces should move over time. What we try to do is develop apps and services that work for billions of people… That’s what Android’s about, that’s why Chrome was built to make the web faster, that’s the way we try to work.”

The Telegraph newspaper first reported at the end of 2016 that a version of YouTube Red was due to launch in the UK in 2017.

At a conference earlier this month, an executive at a UK production company also made reference to YouTube Red coming to the UK, but asked for that not to be Tweeted citing a non-disclosure agreement.

YouTube Red first launched in the US in late 2015 and the service is currently available in the US, Australia, Mexico, New Zealand and South Korea.