YouTube wants your money.
According to unnamed “people with knowledge of the plan” speaking to The New York Times, Google’s streaming-video Website plans on allowing a selection of content creators to charge a monthly fee for their work.
But paid content won’t become the rule on YouTube, with the bulk of videos remaining free for the foreseeable future. The Times suggested that some channels would cost “as little as $1.99 per month,” and act as “libraries of videos on demand.” A YouTube spokesperson declined to comment.
Subscriptions would open up another stream of YouTube-related revenue for Google, which for the moment profits solely from ads it can sell against those millions of cat videos and pirated-action movie clips. It would also put YouTube in more direct competition with subscription-streaming services such as Hulu, Netflix, and others.
People will certainly pay for professional-caliber content streamed directly to their tablets and televisions via the cloud—but can Google profit off shorter clips produced by relative amateurs? That’s the several-million-dollar question. If Google starts with the subscriptions, it could also have the ironic effect of introducing more competition into the streaming-video realm: whatever terms Google sets, it’s likely a host of rivals will arise offering similar channel-hosting with a better cut of the profits for content creators.
And if Google ends up using paid subscriptions as a backdoor for entering the professional-content game, offering television shows and other media for a set price, it will face some fierce competition from the likes of Hulu and Netflix. But this possibility seems unlikely, as Google would first need to sign contracts with studios and other entities for that content—much of which is already locked up by other streaming vendors.
In other words, things could get very interesting if Google actually kicks this subscription plan into motion. But with a billion visitors a month collectively viewing billions of hours of content, Google may feel that it’s leaving money on the proverbial table if it doesn’t do something like this.