YouTube rolls out paid subscription channels

Users can now watch full episodes of certain shows on the site, starting at $0.99 a month

Not everything on YouTube is free any more. The video-sharing website will now charge users a monthly fee to view certain content offered through subscription channels, the Google-owned site announced Thursday.

More than a million channels already generate revenue on YouTube through advertising, "and one of the most frequent requests we hear from these creators behind them is for more flexibility in monetizing and distributing content," the site said.

"We've been working on that and wanted to fill you in on what to expect," YouTube said Thursday in a blog post.

A pilot program includes several dozen paid channels, with others to follow. The list is diverse. It includes "Sesame Street," the UFC martial arts and fighting channel, Comedy.TV, Baby First PLUS, GayDirect for LGBT programming, Jim Henson Family TV, National Geographic Kids and the Woodworkers Guild of America. Full episodes of "Sesame Street," for example, or classic fights aired on UFC will be available via subscription.

The fees start at US$0.99 a month. Every channel will offer a 14-day free trial, and many will offer discounted yearly rates, YouTube said. The site will roll out paid channels "more broadly in the coming weeks as a self-service feature for qualifying partners," YouTube said, adding, "this is just the beginning."

Video producers can fill out an application form to build their own paid channel.

The channels will be accessible from a desktop computer, phone, tablet and TV, with more devices on the way, YouTube said.

The move is likely to help Google generate more revenue from YouTube, though the company didn't immediately respond to a question about what share of the subscription fee it may collect.

"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," the site said.

The site already recommends individual videos and themed channels to users based on their viewing habits.

YouTube launched its partner program for content producers in 2007. The service, which is designed to give creators tools to build their audience, lets eligible videos earn money from ads.

Zach Miners covers social networking, search and general technology news for IDG News Service. Follow Zach on Twitter at @zachminers. Zach's e-mail address is zach_miners@idg.com

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