YouTube on Thursday unveiled its first paid subscription channels as the
Google-owned video service made a long-anticipated move to challenge
streaming services like Netflix.
The move puts Google into direct
competition with services such as Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon, which have
been luring viewers away from cable and broadcast TV.
"Starting Thursday, we're launching a pilot program for a small group of partners
that will offer paid channels on YouTube with subscription fees starting
at $0.99 per month," a YouTube blog statement said.
(Also see: YouTube could launch paid subscriptions this week: Report)
The statement said this is part of an effort begun in 2007 "that enables content creators to earn revenue for their creativity."
released a list of some 50 channels which will be part of the program
starting Thursday. Subscription rates go as high as $7.99 per month.
"Every channel has a 14-day free trial, and many offer discounted yearly rates," a YouTube blog post said.
is just the beginning. We'll be rolling paid channels out more broadly
in the coming weeks as a self-service feature for qualifying partners.
And 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."
Subscribers will be able to access the
channels from a computer, phone, tablet or TV, "and soon you'll be able
to subscribe to them from more devices," the statement said."
bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65 billion. The service is believed to
generate a small amount of revenue from advertising, but the content has
been free up to now.
YouTube has gradually added professional
content, such as full-length television shows and movies to its vast
trove of amateur video offerings in a bid to attract advertisers.
new paid channels include Acorn TV, which offers ad-free British TV
programs at $4.99 per month; National Geographic Kids, at $2.99 a month
or $30 a year; and PrimeZone Sports, at $2.99 per month.
channels offer programming from UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship),
Comedy.tv, and iAmplify Fitness. A children's channel from Sesame Street
is also coming, YouTube said.
Absent from the list are the big
media-entertainment firms such as Comcast and Time Warner, which offer
their programs through services like Hulu or Netflix or their own
But YouTube said it had "more than one
million channels generating revenue on YouTube," and added that "one of
the most frequent requests we hear from these creators behind them is
for more flexibility in monetizing and distributing content."
Earlier this year Google said more than a billion people use YouTube each
month, with viewing on smartphones helping drive growth.
confirmed early this year that its evolution as an Internet stage for
video may include subscriptions to content that creators expect people
would pay to watch.
The video service has been gaining prominence
in other areas, such as a launchpad for new musicians, and a forum for