YouTube's new premium music service which has been hinted at since last year won't be launching this month, a company spokesperson told Variety. While numerous industry watchers speculated the platform will debut this week at South by Southwest music festival in Austin, Texas, YouTube insists such a move was never in its plans. Google's video subsidiary managed to secure long-term licensing agreements with the world's three largest music labels — Sony, Universal, and Warner — as of late 2017, with the move seemingly paving the way for the introduction of its premium music streaming offering meant to compete with the likes of Spotify and Apple Music.
The actual nature of the service and the manner in which it's meant to fit into YouTube and Google's product portfolios remains unclear. Last summer, YouTube music chief Lyor Cohen said premium video streaming platform YouTube Red and Google Play Music are planned to merge in the future but it's presently unclear whether their union is meant to be introduced in the form of a music-focused offering that was previously expected to debut at this year's SXSW. YouTube Red is also meant to undergo a major international expansion over the course of this year, according to recent reports. Originally launched in late 2014 as Music Key before being rebranded into YouTube Red a year later, the firm's platform promises ad-free and exclusive content in exchange for a $10 monthly subscription, having so far been positioned as the premium YouTube experience. The influx of original programming exclusive to the service is now expected to decline as the Internet giant places a larger focus on funding shows that are available to all of its users, some insiders suggested in recent weeks.
While a number of industry watchers are now speculating YouTube's premium music service may debut at Google I/O in mid-May, the annual conference is primarily aimed at developers and is hence unlikely to used as a platform for introducing such a consumer-oriented product. The overall amount of YouTube's investments in Hollywood programming is also set to remain flat over the next two years which indicates the company may be re-evaluating its overall business model, according to recent reports.