Youtube: 4K resolution moves behind paywall as a test

Google blocks some free users in a test of 4K resolution. Affected users can see a maximum of 1440p – if you want more, you should pay for premium.

YouTube is apparently testing a new restriction for free users: on Reddit, several users report that they can no longer watch 4K videos without the paid premium subscription. The maximum resolution that people without a subscription can still see is 1440p.

The posts on Reddit (1, 2) are several weeks old, and now several US media such as the 9to5Google blog have taken up the topic. Google has so far refused to comment on the subject. It’s unclear if the 4K paywall will be tested globally, how many users will be affected, and if there are plans to eventually roll out the restriction to all users. Apparently only a few are affected at the moment.

So far, YouTube Premium has primarily been used to watch videos ad-free. The subscription also includes the ability to download Youtube videos and watch them offline and grants full access to the music streaming service Youtube Music. In Germany, the premium subscription costs 12 euros per month.

In the past few weeks, Google has apparently carried out several tests that indicate imminent restrictions on free viewing. The Google subsidiary is not only experimenting with the 4K paywall, but also with more aggressive ads: a test phase in which some people saw additional ads before the actual video only ended in September.

Last year, Google also tested a subscription variant called Premium Lite, which only blocked ads – without unlocking access to YouTube music or offline videos. This subscription option has not yet been activated for all users.

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The numerous experiments suggest that Google is dissatisfied with its current subscription structure and would like to turn more free viewers into paying users. More than 122 million people watch YouTube every day.