Something of a new era is set to start for YouTube (News - Alert). Where formerly, much of what was available on the hotly popular streaming video venue was available either at no charge or for a one-time cost to view, YouTube is opening the floodgates to a handful of channel producers and offering them the potential to put their channels under a subscription basis.
The new service is said to roll out this spring, though it would likely only affect a handful of producers.
YouTube is also said to be trying to lure in other content producers from outside its current roster, though right now, early word indicates that the subscription offers are going to places like Fullscreen, Machinima and Maker Studios who have large followings and would likely benefit from being able to take their content out of the general population and put it into its own mix.
Some reports even suggest YouTube will unveil the new service at the Digital Content New Fronts show in late April – a fitting choice as Digital Content New Fronts is the place where big names like YouTube, as well as AOL (News - Alert) and Yahoo, among others, put on presentations geared toward getting advertisers better involved in what's coming up.
While this likely sounds unappealing to users who would have to pony up more dough to watch their favorite content, such a move does have one very compelling point in its favor, as described by YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar at the AllThingsD media conference in 2012.
Specifically, by offering subscription services – say, $1 to $5 for a month's access – YouTube could open itself up as a way for lower-tier cable channels to make the move from cable to a streaming alternative and bring their programs with them.
Recent days have certainly seen the impact of distribution fees as far as cable channels go; look at the feud between Dish Network and AMC – and consider what would happen if, one day, "Mad Men" were on YouTube for $5 a month.
YouTube is basically setting this up like an experiment for now, offering the concept to a small group of channels to see who's interested in going after such an idea. Additionally, YouTube is also encouraging those interested to consider carefully the effects.
The popularity of these channels has often been ascribed to a lot of hard work and cross-promotion offering the content for free; can they survive the move to a paying basis?
That's a good question. Can any content survive the move to a paying basis when formerly it was offered at no charge? Sure, it's the dream of just about any actor, writer, musician, or artist in general to actually get paid for their work so that they can do nothing but produce new work, but with a tight economy still in place, consumers demand more value.
A formerly free service going to a pay service without adding more to it isn't producing more value overall; it's producing less.
This idea won't work for everyone, of course. It does offer an interesting idea in terms of shaking up distribution, and gets us all one step closer to the dream of a la carte cable service thanks to streaming media.
But with bandwidth issues still in place in many places, and the issue of value still quite prevalent, this is one experiment that may not pull off as well as some would hope. At least, not yet.
Want to learn more about the latest in communications and technology? Then be sure to attend ITEXPO Miami 2013, happening now in Miami, Florida. Stay in touch with everything happening at ITEXPO (News - Alert). Follow us on Twitter.
Edited by Braden Becker