The Financial Times is reporting that Google will launch paid subscription channels on YouTube sometime very soon, perhaps even this week. Channels, which could be available for as little as $1.99 (£1.30) a month are expected to bring an extra source of revenue to the largely ad-supported service.
The idea would allow traditional broadcasters to offer content to viewers, and for Joe and Jane public to make a more predictable amount of money from their popular channels. Some analysts forecast that within a few years YouTube could have the revenue earnings of a big US broadcaster like CBS, some $15 billion. With that kind of money, YouTube could quickly become a major force in entertainment.
When YouTube was approached by Mashable for a comment on its subscription plans, it said: "We have nothing to announce at this time, but we're looking into creating a subscription platform that could bring even more great content to YouTube for our users to enjoy and provide our creators with another vehicle to generate revenue from their content, beyond the rental and ad-supported models we offer." Hardly a denial, is it?
YouTube has been interested in creating more high-quality channels for some time now. Recently it awarded grants of $1million to several UK bidders who pitched channel ideas. Clearly, this was a move to bring more premium content to the service. Not that we're saying cats riding robot vacuum cleaners isn't high-end, or anything. Those channels have content from about anything from computing to cooking, and most things in between.
Clearly, the idea is to bring more users to the site, and to have them stay longer and watch more adverts. It's obviously working, because the FT reports that YouTube now has more than 1 billion monthly users and that they watched 4 billion hours of video. Apparently, that's more than a total of a trillion views. Uploaders are also busy, with 72 hours of video being uploaded to the site every minute.
There is one interesting side issue here, because at some point YouTube will become, in the eyes of the UK government - and likely others - a broadcaster. When that happens, the firm is going to have to obey UK laws and make sure that under-18s are protected from unsuitable content. Pocket-lint understands that the money YouTube gave to its channel partners to start channels was paid in advance specifically to avoid the need to be regulated by Ofcom.