Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported that Google is in the process of changing up YouTube.  The new model would allow individuals who create and post videos to charge viewers to see content.  This move would help raise revenue for all parties involved.  For YouTube, this may mean increased postings and thereby increased advertisement revenue.  For individual creators, this new pay-to-view channel system would allow more direct profit from their labor.

The pay-to-view concept would allow for a number of varying payment models.  Creators could charge a flat subscription fee for viewers of their channel.  Others could offer “windowing”–allowing people to pay for an early sneak peak at new content.  A number of creators and posters find this process of windowing more favorable than taking their currently free channels to a subscription service.

There are hopes among YouTube executives that this model may catch the eye of some struggling cable television networks.  The networks may find that people will take a chance on their shows by paying a subscription fee for some on demand content, rather than tune in to regularly scheduled programming.

One confirmation that this process is entering the marketplace sooner rather than later has come from the coding for a new YouTube cell-phone app update. The app’s code states plainly, “[y]ou can only subscribe/unsubscribe from this paid channel on your computer.”  The purpose of the language seems clear: pay-to-view channels are coming.

Though rumors regarding this new pay-to-view service were originally a footnote to other murmurs about Google launching a Spotify-esque service, the above code seems to make the launch all but certain.

With any luck this service will allow for more budding artists, writers, and filmmakers to take a stab at making a living.  Or it will allow for successful bloggers to find another outlet to shop their wares.  Most likely this will simply be a way for networks to gain another revenue stream for the ever growing demand for on-demand streaming.  At bottom, we can hope that the end result will be higher quality content for the user.

Jonathan Hoffmann

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5 Responses to Google Tweaks YouTube: Pay-To-View Channels

  1. Veronica says:

    While I see the potential for budding artists, writers, and filmmakers to make a living through this service, I am more inclined to think that this new YouTube pay-for-content idea will actually hurt these artists. I am under the impression that many artists benefit from YouTube because it is a platform for them to share their talents and become YouTube sensations. The more hits they get, the more likely they will be discovered, showcased on television, or given a record deal. If YouTube users have to start paying to see random videos, then my guess is that these unknown artists will probably not get the millions of views that help catapult them into stardom today.

  2. Michael Joshi says:

    If this feature is available to all youtube users, I wonder if youtube will make a greater effort to inform its users of posting material that potentially infringes copyright. Apparently, youtube has shut down accounts that achieved a high profile from performing covers of popular songs, but it seems that they do so only at the request of the copyright owner, leading to a fairly inconsistent policing mechanism. While a closed account is no fun for the account holder, it seems like the problem gets much more complicated if naive users start making money off copyrighted material.

  3. Nick B. says:

    This may be personal, but with all of the other streaming options available, YouTube would have to offer something very different to get me to bother paying money. I mean, what draw is there to YouTube rather than Netflix, Hulu, etc? Maybe I’m just not YouTube addicted enough or I’m not understaind how this would work. Because I don’t think it would work but it is an interesting idea.

  4. J.P. Urban says:

    This is a great development, and if some cable channels that are struggling for viewership are able to take advantage of this model, I think consumers will certainly benefit. The main problem I see with that aspect of this issue is that the cable companies likely have contracts with those networks prohibiting them from live streaming here. Additionally, I think Mike has a good point with the tendency for consumers–or would-be consumers–to click the free version of content when given the option. If you recall, Limewire in particular tried including paid and unpaid versions of the same song in its search listing, and we all know what happened there. With that legal backdrop, however, Google is unlikely to allow Youtube to fall prone to the same fate.

  5. Michael Dearington says:

    Nice post, Jon. I imagine this could cause some problems given the potential for infringing material to appear on YouTube. For instance, if I search for a pay-content video, and in the results appears both the paid video and a free version that infringes the paid-content video, many users will likely choose the free content. I think YouTube will need to spend extra resources on takedowns of videos that infringe paid-content video on YouTube in order for this model to work.