For all the effort that goes into making some of the awesome YouTube content, the cents from advertising support, even in video form, look increasingly small change for many. The service's new subscription channels could shake up how top content producers work, but content creators have many issues to consider.
Change the Channel
Some YouTube videos earn their creators huge sums of money, by capturing a seminal moment, by starring a South Korean dance icon or by being well-tailored to a particular audience. For many more there's a modest income from well-made content, and for the rest the odd sound of lose change.
YouTube is shaking the money tree a bit by allowing top content producers to run subscription channels from 99 cents a month, with free trial periods, allowing users the cachet of membership and owners a more reliable revenue stream.
Some big names are in the first raft of release with Sesame Street and the Ultimate Fighting Championship seeming strange bed-fellows, but they lay down a marker for what's to come, as any creator can apply to have a premium channel, with applications under consideration by the Paid Channels team.
Starring In Your Own Show
YouTube will be doing its bit to promote these new channels to get the service up and running, according to a new blog post. Among the other stars of the first batch of pay channels are National Geographic Kids, the PGA's Digital Golf Academy, comedy.tv, recipe.tv and many others, highlighting the breadth of content available on YouTube.
Users can pay through their Google Wallet, and will have the 14-day trial to see if they feel the value before committing funds to the channel. Multi-channel portals can offer one fee for a range of channels and there are long-term discounts when paying for 12-months up front. Presumably there won't be advertising on the premium shows, which could be a good enough reason for many to subscribe.
Existing content providers need to decide if they will benefit a regular income stream from a likely lower audience, unless you channel has pretty hardcore fans. Will Google share the early revenue numbers to spike creators' interest? Will they allow creators to run a premium channel and a basic ad-supported channel side by side, with lower-quality video or other content, to see which works best?
Certainly, this is a tempting move from Google for the many millions of channel creators on YouTube and with subscribers only like to pick a few key channels, those that get in to the system first are likely to pick up more users than latecomers. However, if the service takes off, except major media players to adopt it rapidly and for it to eventually become a rival to TV and movie channels like Netflix.