YouTube ices out Russian subscribers, joining other U.S. video services in boycotting the country over Ukraine invasion

Yet another U.S. streaming-video service said “dasvidaniya” to Russian customers as international blowback to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine deepens.

YouTube announced a “pause” in all of its paid features for viewers in the Russian Federation, Reuters reported Wednesday, following earlier moves by Amazon and Netflix to dump Russian subscribers.

According to a YouTube statement quoted in that Reuters report, this covers “all our monetization features, including YouTube Premium, Channel Memberships, Super Chat and Merchandise, for viewers in Russia.”

YouTube has plenty of company in turning away from Russia to protest the unprovoked attack ordered on Ukraine by Russian president Vladimir Putin — the country under Putin’s authoritarian rule now finds itself not only cut off from travel and trade but even streaming distractions from the West.

Tuesday, Amazon essentially relegated Russian customers to sub-Prime status, announcing in a blog post that it was “suspending access to Prime Video for customers based in Russia” and was suspending deliveries to Russia and Belarus, which has functioned as a supporter and cheerleader of Russia in its invasion.

And Sunday, Netflix said it would suspend its service in Russia. The company had a set of Russian-language originals in the works but also faced demands from Russian regulators that it carry 20 state-sanctioned channels — a requirement Netflix rejected days after the Feb. 24 launch of the invasion.

“Netflix had the most to lose in leaving Russia, with a much higher market share than other international streaming services,” Brett Sappington, a vice president with Interpret, wrote in an email. “Russian-language streaming services such as are some of the most popular in that country, rivaling or exceeding use of Netflix.”

He added that his firm’s VideoWatch research showed relatively low uptake of streaming services in 2021, with only one-third of Russians watching TV episodes or movies via streaming each week in 2021 — or roughly half the U.S. rate.

The growing boycott of Russia has also extended to U.S. screens: Multiple pay-TV services here have finally dumped the Russian-government-controlled channel RT, which calls itself a news operation but which media observers widely consider a Kremlin propaganda outfit.