Google's YouTube online video service will now start charging viewing fees for some content under a program that aims to reward video creators for their labors while encouraging the development of better video for the huge online audience.
"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 99 cents per month," the YouTube team announced in a May 9 post on The Official YouTube Blog. "Every channel has a 14-day free trial, and many offer discounted yearly rates."
Some of the paid content at the start of the pilot includes "Sesame Street," which will offer full episodes on their paid channel when it launches, as well as "Ultimate Fighting Championship" (UFC), which will offer classic fights such as a full version of their first event from UFC’s new channel, according to the post.
So far, there are 53 paid channels listed in YouTube's pilot program, including Acorn TV, Baby First PLUS, Cars.TV, Comedy.TC, Cuba.TV, Docu Pix, Fix My Hog, Justice Central.TV, Laugh Factory VIP, Pets.TV, SmartTV.com, SportskoolPlus, Treehouse Direct and Woodworkers Guild of America Premium Channel.
"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," the post said.
The idea behind the program is to help find new ways for content creators to gain more revenue from their work, according to YouTube. "We've been building a YouTube partner program since 2007 that enables content creators to earn revenue for their creativity. 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."
Requests for more revenue-generation models on YouTube are "one of the most frequent requests we hear from these creators," according to the post. "We've been working on that and wanted to fill you in on what to expect."
More such efforts will be coming in the future, according to YouTube. "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. 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."
By giving video content creators more ways to bring in revenue, the program hopes to encourage them to create even more great content for YouTube's global audience, according to the post. "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."
Rumors of a pending subscription service on YouTube surfaced earlier this month.
Several IT analysts told eWEEK that the move makes sense for the creators of content, many of whom only receive small amounts of revenue for their work through online ads.