YouTube chief 'optimistic' site will launch music service 'soon'

Susan Wojcicki dodges a question about YouTube's expected music subscription product, saying at the Recode mobile conference that her company is "working on it."

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YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki (right) chats at the Recode Mobile conference. Shara Tibken/CNET

HALF MOON BAY, Calif. -- YouTube's anticipated music subscription service could hit the market soon -- maybe.

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, speaking Monday at the Recode mobile conference, declined to say whether the service will be available this year, despite expectations it will launch by the end of 2014. Instead, she simply said YouTube is "working on it" and it should arrive "soon."

"I think there's a lot of opportunity," she said. "It's amazing how much music we have. ... I remain optimistic that you can see it soon."

YouTube has been working on a streaming music service since last year. The offering is expected to be similar to Spotify with commercial-free paid subscriptions as well as an ad-supported free model -- but with videos to boot. Google has reportedly been close to launching it several times, but 2014 is drawing to a close without an unveiling yet. The service has been hampered by reports of friction with independent music labels, as well as the departures of key executives.

Google's search and advertising business is still the most dominant in the industry -- it generates $50 billion a year in revenue -- but some financial analysts fear the business is slowing. The company reported last week that paid clicks for the third quarter rose 17 percent from the same period last year. That compares with 26 percent growth the year before. So as Google looks to the future, it's trying to find other revenue sources to make sure it keeps its lead. In the United States, video ad revenues from YouTube will hit $1.13 billion by the end of 2014, according to eMarketer.

Google's YouTube video site is an Internet juggernaut, notching more than a billion unique visitors every month and streaming about three months' worth of video to viewers every minute. All that watching adds up -- it's the No. 1 source of traffic on mobile Internet networks in North America, according to researcher Sandvine, and second only to Netflix on fixed-access networks, like your home broadband service.

Wojcicki is one of Google's longest-serving employees -- she rented her garage to founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin as they were building the company in the late 1990s. She was appointed the head of YouTube in February, after she had been Google's senior vice president of advertising.

Google on Friday said the company is undergoing a major reorganization. Senior Vice President Sundar Pichai -- who already runs Google's Android operating system, Chrome software and Google Apps like Gmail and Docs -- will take control of most of Google's major products, including search and maps. But while most product heads who used to report directly to CEO Larry Page will now report to Pichai, Wojcicki will continue to report directly to the CEO.

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