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YouTube Launches Pay TV Channel Subscriptions

Google’s YouTube is moving into the pay TV market with the launch of subscription-based channels

On by Tom Jowitt 0

Google has moved into the pay television market after it expanded its YouTube partner program to allow for the creation of paid subscription channels.

The decision marks Google’s second major commercialisation move (after the introduction of adverts) of the video sharing website it acquired back in 2006.

Subscription Channels

Google revealed the move in a posting on the official YouTube blog. It has so far signed up 30 content providers, including children’s content creators such as Sesame Street and Muppets creator  The Jim Henson Co, and National Geographic for kids.

YouTube featuredThe idea is that these channel creators will be given the power to set their own subscription fees. For example, the PGA Digital Golf Academy is charging £3.49 per month for virtual golf lessons, or £22.49 per year. The Premium TV channel is charging £3.99 per month, or £33.99 a year. A fourteen day trial period is usually offered free of charge.

The channel creators can also decide what advertisements to carry on their channels.

“We’ve been building a YouTube partner program since 2007 that enables content creators to earn revenue for their creativity,” said the Google posting. “We’ve watched them build amazing channels that have made YouTube into a news, education and entertainment destination 1 billion people around the world cannot do without.”

Google said that there are currently more than 1 million channels generating revenue on YouTube (from advertising), and one of the most frequent requests it hears from those channel creators was for more flexibility in monetising and distributing content.

“Starting today, we’re launching a pilot program for a small group of partners that will offer paid channels on YouTube with subscription fees starting at $0.99 (£0.64) per month. Every channel has a 14-day free trial, and many offer discounted yearly rates. For example, Sesame Street will be offering full episodes on their paid channel when it launches.

A full listing of the available pilot channels is available here.

The channels will also be portable, meaning that subscribers will be able to watch paid channels on their PCs, smartphones, tablets and or even their television. Google also promised that more devices will be added to the subscription roster.

Broader Move?

“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,” said Google. “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,” said Google. “You’ll be hearing more from us, and them, as we get creator and user feedback and build out this exciting offering.”

Google is known to be keen to explore the potential of the video and TV markets. It teamed up for example with Intel, Sony and Logitech back in 2010 to create Google TV, a Smart TV platform. This latest move could potentially signal the start of Google’s repositioning of YouTube as a more mainstream content provider.

“I think everyone who creates video programming should be worried about the growth of new content channels,” Richard Greenfield, a media analyst with BTIG LLC was quoted by Reuters as saying. “Broadcast TV has been hurt by cable. Broadcast is still a very large business despite fragmentation.”

Earlier this year, Google also announced plans to launch a dedicated YouTube app through the Freesat digital satellite service. Unlike a traditional TV channel, Google’s product will be built around HTML5 and offer rich Web-enabled features and “fully interactive viewing experience”.

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Tom Jowitt

Author: Tom Jowitt

Freelance TechWeek Reporter
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