It's been said there's no such thing as a free lunch. Soon, it will be said there's no such thing as a free online video.
YouTube, the bastion of amateur and professional free videos, will launch paid subscriptions for individual channels as early as this spring, a story in Advertising Age reported.
Originally, the Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) business unit is expected to offer about 25 channels of programming at a cost of between $1 and $5 a month per channel. It's also considering charging for its content libraries and pay-per-view live events. Self-help and financial shows are also on the money list.
To an extent, it makes sense. Professional video firms have been cashing in on YouTube, and now the purveyor wants some recompense.
"[I]t is believed that YouTube will lean on the media companies that have already shown the ability to develop large followings on the video platform, including networks like Machinima, Maker Studios and Fullscreen," the story said, noting that YouTube is also looking at outsiders who might want to play in the subscription space.
YouTube has been toying with the subscription idea for a while, a Google spokesman confirmed.
"We have long maintained that different content requires different types of payment models. The important thing is that, regardless of the model, our creators succeed on the platform," the spokesman said in a statement to the publication. "There are a lot of our content creators that think they would benefit from subscriptions, so we're looking at that."
The YouTube speculation dovetails with research from IHS Screen Digest that predicts small-to-medium sized channels could slide into an OTT-only model in the next five to 10 years.
According to the analyst firm, only 58 of the 192 channels rated by the Broadcasters' Audience Research Board (BARB), the official source of television viewing in the U.K., have big enough audience bases to preclude an OTT-only model.
"For large consumption channels--i.e. channels with large audiences--the economics of OTT streaming remain highly unfavorable," Guy Bisson, research director for television at IHS, said in a story reported by Broadband TV News. On the other hand, "for channels with a low to medium viewing share, scaling for OTT may not be such an issue."
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