YouTube ends trial that limited 4K content to Premium subscription

In the context: YouTube’s controversial experiment in which it limited 4K content to a $12 a month premium service has come to an end. What conclusion Google drew from the test is unknown – it appears to be still gathering feedback – so there is no guarantee that the permission will remain available on the platform indefinitely.

Earlier this month, Reddit and YouTube users began posting 2160p/4K screenshots of YouTube videos, shown as a feature only available to YouTube Premium subscribers. It has been speculated that Google was looking to make 4K content another benefit of its $12M/$120/year service, which is ad-free on the free version of YouTube and comes with music streaming service YouTube Music.

YouTube has been offering 4K video for over a decade, and even has an 8K option where it’s available, so removing resolutions above 1440p has always caused backlash. According to the official YouTube Twitter account (found 9to5Google), the experiment is over, meaning that the few users who couldn’t see 4K on YouTube should be able to access that resolution again.

Responding to a user’s tweet that 4K resolution is limited to YouTube Premium, TeamYouTube wrote: “We have completely disabled this experiment. Viewers should now be able to access 4K quality resolution without a Premium subscription. We are here if you have any other questions.”

It is not clear if YouTube ended this trial prematurely due to the high number of rejections it received, or if the experiment was running its course. Interestingly, a Japanese-language tweet from Team YouTube included a link where users could give their opinion on blocking 4K content on YouTube Premium.

Whether or not Google decides that the new users it can bring to YouTube Premium looking for 4K video will outweigh that outrage. It’s unlikely that people will boycott the platform en masse – the latest Steam poll shows that few members own 4K monitors, although many watch it on 4K/HDR smart TVs. Unfortunately, as always, such corporate decisions ultimately come down to money. One should also wonder if Google could have made other YouTube features like 60fps or HDR only for Premium.

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