Take a deep breath and don’t worry. Much of Youtube’s video content (including— shameless plug — my awesome and entertaining page BillyBDigital) will continue to be free of charge. Some content and channels, however, could be fitted with a new paid subscription model.
The move is one that will provide YouTube and its parent company Google with a second revenue stream apart from advertisements, and it’s making some YouTube lovers nervous. The massive video-streaming company has grown to attract a billion users each month as it continues to refine its presentation of channels and improves the quality of content uploaded. The probability of paid subscriptions for some channels is just another step in this direction.
YouTube’s open style and few restrictions allow users to upload everything from low-resolution, 15 second home videos, to professional-grade HD content. The company has spent hundreds of millions of dollars promoting its best content and compensating the creators through the YouTube Partner program. Sharing its deep ad revenue with partners has cemented YouTube as the unquestioned web-video powerhouse on the internet while developing a crop of committed, full-time, and pretty well paid YouTubers.
Keeping YouTube’s independent content creators well compensated for their efforts, and away from burgeoning video sites like Vimeo, is an important priority. A spokesperson for YouTube said, “The important thing is that, regardless of the model, our creators succeed on the platform. There are a lot of our content creators that think they would benefit from subscriptions, so we’re looking at that."
Unlike the already existing movie rentals or purchase system (through Google Play), YouTube’s paid subscription plan is a monthly payment, ranging from $1 to $5 per month per channel, with YouTube likely taking 45% of the proceeds and giving the rest to the content creators. Larger-scale creators with healthy followings could potentially rake in much larger profits to fund even more ambitious and creative film and video projects. Most content creators will be better positioned to reach more viewers by keeping their content free of charge. As for viewers, we have the freedom to decide if the content from these channels is truly worth the monthly subscription or not. All in all, I think this is a smart and fairly painless move for Google and for those of us who enjoy YouTube content.
While companies like Netflix and Hulu are scrambling to attract more eyes and investing in the production of quality original content like the hit House of Cards, YouTube can already boast the deepest reserve of original content and widest array of content creators ever assembled. The subscription decision has the big upside of potentially improving the scale, budgets, and quality of YouTube videos produced, with not much downside beyond the sparse grumblings of some users.
Consider that many YouTube rockstars like Issa Rae and Freddie Wong are essentially young, creative, independent filmmakers who’ve scrapped together friends and coordinated their energy to produce what we’ve been enjoying. No bloated actor salaries or huge production studios here — just drive and talent. I’d happily pony up a dollar each month to directly support and encourage more content from people like them.