YouTube and Spotify Experiment with (Somewhat Confusing) Lower-Cost ‘Premium Lite’ and ‘Plus’ Plans

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It appears that some of the big streaming platforms have realized that not everybody is as eager to shell out $10/month or more for “Premium” access as they would like. As a result, two of them — Spotify and YouTube — are trying a new tack with “Lite” plans that offer some of the benefits of the full premium experience, but at a much lower cost.

Perhaps ironically, however, the two are taking opposing approaches. YouTube is opting to provide an ad-free experience without most of the other premium features, while Spotify is leaving the ads in while delivering things like on-demand listening at a much lower price.

Depending on what you’re looking for, however, either one could offer a significant discount over what you’re already paying — when and if they become more widely available, that is.

As of right now, it looks like both companies are only running pilot programs, but presumably these plans — or something like them — will roll out more widely if they get a positive reception.

YouTube Premium, formerly known as YouTube Red, is an $11.99/month service that removes ads from all the videos you watch on YouTube. It also allows subscribers to close the YouTube app and continue listening to audio in the background while doing something else on an iPhone or iPad, and even download videos to your device for offline viewing.

The full YouTube Premium package also includes ad-free listening, on-demand playback, and background audio on YouTube Music, which makes it a direct competitor to Spotify and Apple Music.

Google also offers a standalone subscription for YouTube Music Premium only for $9.99/month, which naturally excludes all the main YouTube features.

Further, while YouTube is still reportedly rolling out Picture-in-Picture support, it doesn’t appear users will be required to be Premium subscribers to access this particular feature — at least not for YouTube users in the US who don’t plan to use it to listen to music.

The whole thing is a bit confusing right now, but we’ll probably get a better idea once it actually gets rolled out a bit more widely.

As with most other streaming services, Google doesn’t factor in exchange rates when pricing YouTube Premium in different countries — it’s $11.99 in the US, $11.99 in Canada, £11.99 in the UK, and €11.99 in the EU.

It’s in this latter market that Google is currently trying out a new YouTube Premium Lite service. More specifically, a YouTube spokesperson told The Verge that it’s currently being tested in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden.

In Nordics and Benelux (except for Iceland), we’re testing a new offering to give users even more choice: Premium Lite costs €6.99/month (or local equivalent per month) and it includes ad-free videos on YouTube.”

YouTube spokesperson, in a statement to The Verge

Based on YouTube’s current pricing model, YouTube Premium Lite will likely cost a similar $6.99/month should it come to US subscribers. As things stand right now, you may be able to see the new plan on YouTube’s site, but you probably won’t be able to subscribe to it unless you’re in one of those countries.

What Is YouTube Premium Lite?

Here’s how the new “Lite” package compares to the full YouTube Premium:

  1. You’ll still get ad-free viewing in YouTube’s main app on your iPhone, iPad, or Android device, as well as on smart TVs, game consoles, and on the web.
  2. You’ll also get ad-free videos in the YouTube Kids app, on the same platforms as the full YouTube app.
  3. You won’t get any YouTube Music benefits. This means no ad-free listening, no background playback, and no offline downloads.

To be clear, the current YouTube Premium Lite plan is just a trial, so there’s no guarantee that it will expand to any other markets in its current form, or even at all.

YouTube says that it’s in an experimental phase, and it may even choose to roll out additional plans depending on the feedback that it gets from this trial.

What Is Spotify Plus?

Spotify is also testing out a lower-cost plan, but it’s actually quite different from what YouTube is up to, not only in features, but in price.

Right now, Spotify Premium costs $9.99/month and offers a fully ad-free listening experience, plus fully on-demand listening, and unlimited skips. By contrast, the free tier of Spotify pays for itself with ads, and users can only listen to specific tracks from 15 curated playlists. Free users also can’t skip more than six tracks per hour.

Now it appears that Spotify is testing the waters to see if it can get people to pony up a buck a month or so just to get on-demand listening, while still leaving all the ads in place.

The new tier is called Spotify Plus, and it appears that it’s showing up randomly — and at slightly different price points — to gauge user interest and see who is willing to pay for it, and how much they’re willing to pay.

According to The Verge, at least one user has been offered the new tier for $0.99/month, but it’s not clear yet what other prices may be showing up. Spotify confirmed its plans in a statement to The Verge.

We’re always working to enhance the Spotify experience and we routinely conduct tests to inform our decisions. We’re currently conducting a test of an ad-supported subscription plan with a limited number of our users.

Spotify spokesperson, in a statement to The Verge

Note that Spotify Plus may not include all the features of Spotify Premium. In addition to leaving the ads in, there’s no indication that Spotify Plus users will be able to take advantage of offline playback.

For now, all that Plus offers is “Unlimited skips and on-demand listening,” but that may be enough to entice most users — if the price is right.

Of course, as with YouTube’s Premium Lite, there’s no guarantee that Spotify Plus will ever see the light of day in any form. Spotify told The Verge that “some tests end up paving the way for new offerings or enhancements while others may only provide learnings.”

Further, Spotify is known to move very slowly when it comes to new features. Despite releasing a very limited Apple Watch app back in 2018, it also took until this spring before users gained offline playback capabilities.

Spotify also began testing lossless audio streaming as far back as 2017, but only announced its lossless “HiFi” tier earlier this year — and it still hasn’t actually rolled it out. Hence, even if Spotify decides to move forward with Spotify Plus, it could be years before it’s actually available.

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