Google launches cross-platform YouTube paid channels program

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Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) unveiled its long-anticipated YouTube paid channels pilot program, enabling content creators to monetize their video efforts across a range of digital platforms.

YouTube - Paid

Partner Jim Henson Family TV charges $2.99 per month for content.

Thirty media partners are participating in the program, launching 50 paid YouTube subscription channels priced at a minimum of 99 cents per month. Marquee channel partners include Jim Henson Family TV, which charges $2.99 per month or $24.99 per year for access to full-length episodes of Sid the Science Kid and Fraggle Rock; The Laugh Factory, which bills $2.99 per month or $27.99 per year for standup routines and comedy sketches; and PGA Digital Golf Academy, which offers video golf lessons and tips for $4.99 a month or $34.99 a year.

"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," YouTube said on its official blog. "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."

On a conference call Thursday, YouTube Head of Content Partnerships Malik Ducard said channel creators will retain more than 50 percent of revenues while YouTube collects the rest, similar to arrangements that exist for sharing the video platform's ad revenues. Other "qualified" YouTube partners will be able to roll out new channels in the coming weeks, Ducard said, adding that some creators will offer premium live content, not just on-demand programming. YouTube viewers will be able to pay for all premium channels via credit card, Ducard added.

YouTube executives have spoken repeatedly about introducing paid channels, and the site has spent more than $100 million to help roughly 150 media partners create and promote dedicated YouTube channels across a range of subjects from food to sports. "It feels to me as if history is repeating itself," Tony Vinciquerra, former chairman of News Corp's Fox Networks Group, told Reuters. "In the early '80s cable providers subsidized channels to enhance offerings to consumers and increase penetration. Fast forward to today, and YouTube is subsidizing the development of new content offerings."

But some analysts believe YouTube's fees might be too high. Netflix's $7.99-a-month subscription price for thousands of movies and TV shows looks "amazing" by comparison, BTIG Research Analyst Rich Greenfield told The Wall Street Journal.

YouTube now eclipses 1 billion users worldwide and is the largest source of mobile data traffic across all international markets, accounting for more than 25 percent of total network data in some regions, according to broadband equipment vendor Sandvine.

For more:
- read this YouTube Blog post
- read this Wall Street Journal article
- read this Reuters article

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