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YouTube Premieres hopes to redefine how people watch videos

Think livestreaming, without the live part


YouTube Premieres is what happens when creators want to incorporate tools designed for livestreaming and bolstering a community, but don’t want to necessarily livestream.

Kurt Wilms, group product manager at YouTube, told Polygon that Premieres is YouTube’s answer to appointment television. The concept is pretty simple: creators upload a video like normal, but instead of hitting publish, they mark it as a Premiere. This allows YouTube to essentially stream the video out at a specific time so creators can watch it with their audience, and join in on the conversation. All of the livestreaming products that creators like (super chat, cool emojis, etc) are now available for standard videos. YouTube is essentially livestreaming pre-recorded videos to help create a more interactive experience. People who come to the video after the “stream” ends will still be able to watch the video as they traditionally have in the past.

Wilms said there were two things in mind the team had when designing Premieres: creating a more interactive experience for both creators and fans, and also helping creators build a business. Everything comes back to monetization.

YouTube Premieres
YouTube’s Premieres in action

“This product is going to help creators make more money, and it unlocks two new big revenue streams,” Wilms said. “The first revenue stream that unlocks is super chat. Super chat is a way fans to send a paid message, and it stands out from the crowd. That’s only been available to livestreamers before, but now with live chat being on the premier page, it unlocks super chat for VOD creators. There’s also channel memberships. Channel memberships have some perks that have have traditionally been live only — channel membership-only chat, custom emoji. Those used to be only available to creators who are streaming. Now with premiers and the live chat being there, VOD creators will be able to do a Premier, and make the chat be members only, for example.

“The key point here is for creators, this unlocks two new big alternative monetization options.”

Creators aren’t the only people Wilms thinks will take advantage of Premieres. Studios like Disney can use the tool to tease out their trailers a couple of days in advance, building up a community who’s talking in chat, and allowing for people involved with the film to drop by and talk to people.

Wilms said the creator response to Premieres is positive so far, but didn’t touch upon the expectations for the chat component. Chat windows on YouTube are notoriously bad, full of people drawing vulgar symbols or typing degrading messages. Polygon has reached out to YouTube about the potential for filters that creators could use to try and clean some of the chat up, or the possibility of members-only chat option, but as of publication there was no further clarification over how the chatrooms will be moderated.

“I think we will continue to shape this feature based on what our creator community wants and how they use it,” Wilms said. “That’s how we built it. And that’s how we’ll continue to tweak it. Creators are already there the moment their videos upload, just to check with the viewers and see how many views it’s getting. We’re leaning into that, and trying to help them take advantage of that moment. And that’s what this is all about. YouTube’s bread and butter has always been on-demand. We’re going to continue to excel and build products there. But I think now we’re starting to dip our toe a little bit into appointment viewing.”

Certain creators, like Jacksfilms, have already tested the product. Jacksfilms said in a statement Premieres is a good way to build hype, but also drive home the idea that everyone is watching the video at the same time all the way through — both fans and creators.

“I really like the idea that when the video goes live — it’s like a true premiere that you can’t fast forward,” he said. “The whole audience watches it all together — I watch it with them too — and that’s so cool. Also, with Super chat baked in, it makes so much sense.”

Premieres will start to roll out to some creators today, and more information about a wider roll out is expected in the coming months. Polygon has reached out for more information about how many subscribers a creator must have in order to use Premieres.