Watcher apologises for paid subscription service, will continue to release free content

Watcher apologises for paid subscription service, will continue to release free content

Watcher has finally addressed the massive backlash to its paid independent streaming platform. Unsurprisingly, it involves both an apology and a rehaul of how its subscription service will operate.

Adopting a much more muted tone than in their optimistic announcement last week, Watcher founders Steven Lim, Ryan Bergara, and Shane Madej, published a three-minute video apology on Monday. The digital production company has been the subject of significant criticism since Friday, when it announced that future content would be exclusive to its new paid streaming service. Furious fans lambasted the change, fuming at being charged for content that had been free for years.ย 

The news particularly stung considering that Watcher said some of the money would be used to fund a “spiritual successor” to Worth It, a show that involved CEO Lim eating ostentatiously expensive meals.

“Imagine having the nerve to ask people for $6/month so you can go eat a $800 steak and report back on how it tastes,” Twitter/X user @traderraider57 posted.

“We messed up,” Lim said in the new video, acknowledging the universal condemnation their announcement incited.

“We’ve been reading the things you’ve been saying, and we’re sorry for the way we handled this as well as the way we communicated it,” said Madej.

“We’re sorry for how we originally delivered our goodbye message to YouTube,” said Bergara. “It was insensitive. We didn’t properly express how much we appreciate all of you.”

The trio also apologised for their “ignorance” regarding the impact of their pricing on fans. Watcher received significant criticism for stating that their $5.99 monthly fee was “low enough where anybody and everybody is able to afford it,” with numerous people pointing out that it’s a significant amount in other countries โ€” and that even some Americans would struggle with this additional cost.

“If I wanted a mfer with a tesla to call me broke I would have just logged onto twitter,” bayeis1501 commented on the original YouTube announcement.

“We regret stating and implying that it’s a price anybody can afford, and we fully acknowledge that it is not,” Lim said in Watcher’s new video. “We didn’t take the proper consideration for how this cost would affect you, and hope you know that we are taking this as a serious learning experience.”

How is Watcher changing is paid subscription service?

Credit: Watcher

While Watcher isn’t scrapping its independent subscription service, it is making some significant changes in light of the overwhelmingly negative feedback it received.

Instead of only hosting future content on its paid subscription platform, Watcher will continue to upload it to YouTube for free. Paid Watcher subscribers will merely get these videos one month before they go live on YouTube, and without ads.

In light of these changes, Watcher is issuing refunds upon request for anyone who has already purchased a subscription to their new streaming service. So if you’re happy to wait a month for new Watcher content rather than devour it as soon as it drops, you could save yourself $6 per month.

Watcher also addressed its Patreon subscribers. In conjunction with the news of Watcher’s new streaming service, the company had announced it would change its Patreon benefits to focus on its podcasts. This upset many supporters who were subscribed to Watcher’s Patreon, as they would no longer be getting what they had paid for.

The changes to Watcher’s Patreon appear here to stay. However, Watcher announced that paid Patreon subscribers will now receive a free subscription code to its streaming platform. Patreon supporters can also apply for a refund if they’d already bought a subscription to Watcher’s streaming service prior to this change.

This new video has been much more well-received than the previous one, with people largely viewing Watcher’s walkback as the right move. Even so, the whole fiasco has shaken at least a few fans’ “parasocial trust” in Watcher’s founders, which may take time to rebuild.

Why did Watcher launch an independent streaming platform?

Watcher founders Steven Lim, Ryan Bergara, and Shane Madej in the video announcing their new paid subscription service.

Credit: Mashable screenshot: Watcher

Bergara, Madej, and Lim ended the video by explaining why they thought launching an independent subscription service was the right move.

“We were finding it harder and harder to stay relevant to advertisers and the constantly changing YouTube landscape,” said Bergara. “We didn’t want to compromise our content to ensure they met advertising requirements. And we definitely did not want to lay people off that have brought Watcher to life behind the scenes. And we didn’t want to bring Watcher to a close, which would have happened if we stayed solely on YouTube.”

Watcher previously laid off a few employees in 2023, Lim having stated that “it was the right decision for the company and for them as well.”

Many viewers noted the obvious similarities between Watcher’s apology and The Try Guys’ similar video in 2022. The Try Guys are also former BuzzFeed employees who founded their own online production company after leaving, were eventually hit with controversy, then published a serious video addressing the issue in which three men sat on a couch and spoke directly to the camera.ย 

Though The Try Guys’ scandal was much more serious than Watcher’s current PR crisis, their similar history and staging had numerous people drawing parallels.

“The ex-buzzfeed employee to three guys on the apology couch pipeline is insane,” zarishhassan5286 commented on Watcher’s apology video.

Amanda Yeo

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