Since 2007 YouTube has given people the option to "monetize" their content by adding advertising either before the clip or as a text overlay. By some estimates Psy's "Gangnam Style" video which has now racked up more than 1.5 Billion views on YouTube has earned the South Korean popstar more than $8 million dollars from YouTube fees alone.
Today YouTube are launching a pilot program to take this a step further, a small group of YouTube partners are launching 53 paid channels, with subscription fees starting at $0.99 per month.
Every channel has a 14-day free trial, and many offer discounted yearly rates. For example, Sesame Street will be offering full episodes on their paid channel when it launches. Once you have subscribed to a channel from your YouTube account you will be able to watch them on your computer, tablet, phone or Smart TV. You can see a list of the currently available channels here.
This is just the beginning...
But as YouTube say on their blog: "This is just the beginning. We'll be rolling paid channels out more broadly in the coming weeks as a self-service feature for qualifying partners. And as new channels appear, we'll be making sure you can discover them, just as we've been helping you find and subscribe to all the channels you love across YouTube. Just as the partner program empowered creators to take their channels to the next level, we look forward to seeing how this great community of creators moves ahead with a new way to reach the fan communities that made their channels a hit. You'll be hearing more from us, and them, as we get creator and user feedback and build out this exciting offering."
So YouTube is going to be joining Netflix, Amazon, Hulu etc as yet another source of Television, with content tightly targeted to particular viewers. There is a lot of content on YouTube that would never make it onto Broadcast Schedules but it has a strong viewer base. By allowing users to create subscription channels YouTube is giving people the tools to make money out of that viewer base in a more consistent way and invest that money in creating more content. Of course, they will take their cut too, but they provide the mechanism to deliver and promote the content.