Considering its first video documented a trip to the zoo, YouTube has come a long way since its birth in 2005. The video network giant now has more than six billion views a month and more than 72 hours of content is uploaded every minute.
Paid channels are a big gamble for YouTube – there is so much free content on there that users may never feel the need to ever pay. This could also mean a dramatic decrease in subscriptions for channels that are signed up, which could bring everything tumbling down.
The arrival of a paid service can be tracked back to 2007 when YouTube introduced its partner program, which provided creators with the resource and opportunity to develop their channels.
Six years after its realisation, the partner programme has seen great success with more than one million channels from 30 countries procuring revenue from their content.
YouTube now launches its paid channels initiative with a pilot list of 53 channels. So far, channel prices range from $0.99 to $2.99 a month (or £1.49 to £3.99 in the UK, though not all channels are available on this side of the pond).
If you don’t pay, you can still view some content and the channel trailer, however, if you want full access, be prepared to pay.
Currently, the pilot list mostly contains big developers such as UFC, who offer access to classic fights, full shows and exclusive content. However, it will be interesting to see whether channels such as Jenna Marbles, =3 (the second-most subscribed channel), and Freddie Wong adopt this new payment system.
Many of these up their channels through years of engagement and hard work. So it raises the question – how would they feel charging their audience for their content when they already make a fair amount of money through Google AdSense?
Also, if too many channels adopt paid subscriptions, users may not like the accumulating monthly costs from being subscribed to multiple channels (though there are discounted views for annual subscriptions). On the flipside, paid channels can turn adverts off, which for some users, may be worth the cost. In addition, it allows channel owners to play up the exclusivity of their content.
It will be interesting to see whether creators will be given the option to make users pay for a specific video or live stream, rather than a monthly channel subscription. Naturally it’s early days for this initiative, and media owners, creators and marketers will be watching with keen interest to see what response there is once the news goes mainstream.
But for now, paid channels are here, and they have the potential to change the way people consume media online for a time yet to come.
Angus Wood is head of earned media at Aegis Media’s iProspect