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YouTube Launches First Paid Channel Subscriptions Starting at $1 Per Month

youtube spaces studioInevitable as it was, YouTube has finally rolled out the initial phase of its first ever attempt at paid subscription content. The 30 channels offered in this ‘pilot program’ span a wide range of demographics and subject matter — which is to be expected from the place where a vast majority of web video lives. Especially judging by these first 30 channels, this news likely won’t have no-budget filmmakers screaming anything about a ‘self-distribution revolution,’ but it certainly offers a more direct line of monetization for content owners than ad-based revenue. Viewers can try out any of the channels with a two-week free trial, and they start at $1 a month. Read on for more details.

Channels range from UFC Select to the Rap Battle Network, to NatGeo Kids and Jim Henson Family TV, all the way over to Magnet Releasing and SCREAMPIX – just to name a few. Here’s the ‘trailer’ for the $3/mo Docurama channel:

From YouTube’s official post on the matter:

Today, there are more than 1 million channels generating revenue on YouTube, and one of the most frequent requests we hear from these creators behind them is for more flexibility in monetizing and distributing content. We’ve been working on that and wanted to fill you in on what to expect. Once you subscribe from a computer, you’ll be able to watch paid channels on your computer, phone, tablet and TV, and soon you’ll be able to subscribe to them from more devices.

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.

It’s worth adding that many of these channels offer a discounted subscription price yearly versus monthly. Due to the expectation of continuous content, these channels aren’t going to be an outlet for content creators as small as the individual — unless, of course, you’re talking about one very, very prolific individual — but the important thing to take away from this news, I think, is that another door to ‘alternative’ monetization has opened for the future. I’m sure many of us are skeptical of YouTube as an outright distribution platform, but it’s surely too early to assume independents won’t some how, some way, be able to use this service to their advantage (some day).

In the meantime, YouTube offers the following at the tail of their own post on this news:

If you’re a YouTube creator interested in building your own paid channel, let us know here.

What do you guys think? How well do you expect these channels to fare? What about the general model itself, could it be beneficial for small media companies — or is YouTube simply not the right venue for independent content?



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  • Tim Hodgson on 05.10.13 @ 9:21PM

    lol, not available in your country…

  • Seems to be US only atm

  • Is unavailable in New Zealand :-( Can’t view it.

  • The rich get richer.

  • Darren Wolff on 05.11.13 @ 12:19AM

    It’s a start…..

  • I think this could be great. Sure, monthly subscriptions don’t work for the individual filmmaker, but if you were doing something along the lines of this

    then you might be in for a chance. All you need is a good curator and a large enough pool of people that content is being generated at a good pace.

  • I think indy series could benifit from this, or any series for that matter. As long as you have a fanbase and upload at a constant pace some poeple will eventually be willing to pay 1 dollar a month, or 10$ a year (add a little discount).

    I don’t thing short films will benifit from this, because subscribing to a channel that generates maybe 3 shorts a year seems unlikely to me. The Vimeo way would be better for that; selling your short directly to the viewer.

  • I think it’s great! Imagine a popular youtube channel for sci fi, horror or whatever having a good amount of subscribers, they eventually will have enough capital to hire filmakers to produce more content, or even license people’s material which would fit in their channel, it opens up a lot of possibilities, even for the ones who produce 1 or 2 shorts a year.

  • Hmm… YouTube as a distribution platform for films? Doesn’t seem like it would work.

    YouTube already has a specific social presence in the world which I believe is: mass free video browsing. If your audience is already accustomed to that kind of relationship with the ‘Tube’ then I don’t think expecting them to pay for something is realistic. And not because people wouldn’t toss a dollar at their computer but simply because of the kind of audience that YouTube already caters to.

    But who knows? I’m completely open to being wrong. Maybe the future holds something different.

    I say develop the dollar subscription platform THEN advertise it on YouTube the way it’s already being done in and before the videos. That couldn’t hurt.