The runaway blockbuster appeal of the video-sharing site YouTube has always been the convenient fact that everything on it is free. Sure, these days you sometimes have to sit through a five- to thirty-second commercial -- but you're still down, because you get repeated free viewings of the Carly Rae Jepsen video with the hunky landscaper.
The all-you-can-eat-for-free era at YouTube may soon be coming to an end, though. According to a report from the marketing industry insiders at the publication Ad Age, YouTube is starting to line up some paid subscription channels for which they're going to ask between $1 to $5 per month.
The details of YouTube charging for paid subscriptions come in the Ad Age report by Jason Del Ray, who notes that the paid service may begin as early as this spring. "YouTube has reached out to a small group of channel producers and asked them to submit applications to create channels that users would have to pay to access," Mr. Del Ray reports. "YouTube is also considering charging for content libraries and access to live events, a la pay-per-view, as well as self-help or financial advice shows."
If YouTube launched a 24-hour Taiwanese animation news channel, I suppose I might pay a couple bucks a month for that.
YouTube has neither confirmed nor denied the Ad Age report, but they did respond with an extremely vague and nebulous statement. Their response at least contained the comprehensible phrase, "We're looking at that."
It's not yet known who would be running these paid-subscription YouTube channels, or what type of video content for which they'd be charging. The report simply refers to "media companies that have already shown the ability to develop large followings on the video platform." So these channels are not likely to be NBC or HBO type channels, but channels which already have large YouTube cult followings.
Which means that Maru the Cat will probably be offered even more lucrative contracts for his endorsements and appearances.
The bloggers at Betabeat ask the obvious question -- "Is There Anything You'd Pay to Watch on YouTube?" After all, you're used to not paying, so this would be no small switch. YouTube would have to do something to make the (admittedly small) fee seem somehow worthwhile.
With YouTube pursuing smaller producers, it seems they're going the same route that Netflix is trying with the new "Arrested Development" series. That route entails creating new, original stuff and hoping viewers feel this exclusive video content is worth a few bucks a month.
After all, whenever something really disappointing happens, I know I'm always looking forward to seeing Hitler's angry reaction when he hears the news.