We asked YouTube's content boss how the new paid service is doing and why it's training stars to use VR

Kelly merrymanLinkedInKelly Merryman, YouTube VP of content partnerships.

YouTube launched its Netflix competitor, YouTube Red in February.

For $9.99 per month, you get access to ad-free YouTube, plus exclusive big budget content from its biggest stars, such as PewDiePie, and other, more TV-like shows.

YouTube hasn’t yet released any subscriber numbers for the service, so we asked the company’s VP of content partnerships, Kelly Merryman, how it has been performing so far.

Speaking to Business Insider at the Cannes Lions advertising festival, Merryman said YouTube Red was very much in the “early days” but that YouTube is “happy” and “encouraged” by its progress.

She said YouTube Red wasn’t launched with a “specific metric” in mind, in terms of user numbers — but instead it was about providing consumer choice.

Merryman said: “YouTube Red just launched in the US and really for us it’s all about consumer choice. Ads continue to be our core business and we are really thrilled about the business of reaching over a billion users a month and with momentum continuing behind that business, so there’s no shift in where our business focuses. But we believe in consumer choice. One of the nice things about YouTube Red is we have created a subscription product that allows consumers to have an offline experience or ad-free experience, but we’ve also chosen that’s another way we can invest in our creators to allow for our creators to actually bring a different cost structure to the platform.”

YouTube Red is hoping to release 15 to 20 shows this year, Merryman said, adding that the company is currently A/B testing the type of content its paid subscribers are interested in.

YouTube stars … in VR

YouTube is also currently training its most popular stars on how to create virtual reality (VR) content, Merryman said. Google has set up VR cameras in each of its studio spaces across the world in offices including Los Angeles, London, New York, Tokyo, Berlin, and Toronto.

Merryman said: “You start to think about the global experience of coming in and having access to use [the studios] and also getting some training about how to think about this. There’s definitely a desire for us too. We don’t think we have all the answers to VR. We think we are creating a new technology that the creative industry can come in and try out and experience. We think that the creative industry is actually going to figure out all sorts of new formats and our goal is to make it simple and easy to use and bring the cost-point down.”

The types of creators invited in to use the studios (for all sorts of training and networking, not just VR) are tied to the number of subscribers they have — although that differs by market — Merryman said.

At Google’s annual I/O event, the company signalled its commitment to VR by announcing it was integrating a “VR mode” into Android, as well as a new VR platform called “Daydream.”

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