YouTube, the proverbial old-guard of the modern internet, will soon make a bold change. They may soon add up to 50 pay-per-month channels. YouTube says prices may be as low as $1.99 per month, and is also considering a pay-per-view option for sporting events, self-help, and content of the like. Until this new revenue stream takes hold, YouTube's income will be over 90% based on ad space.
Why is this not a bad thing? Because it makes truly premium content more accessible to the ad-hoc customer. Take, for instance, AMC's Mad Men. The acclaimed series has its first 5 seasons streaming on Netflix for an all inclusive 8 bucks per moon. However, if you want to watch the previously aired season six episodes in the next 9 months without a cable membership, you will likely have to cough up thirty to fifty hard-earned dollars just to watch something that could have been free. YouTube would make a price discrepancy like that far more reasonable.
The reason that this economically sensible union did not come about sooner is quite sinister, so put on your tin foil hats. You see, the major content creators are an oligopolistic bunch, and putting their best stuff on the internet for individual, low prices messes with their iron-fisted, hegemonic grip on the pretty pictures we watch every day. Cable companies, for example, own many of the networks they exhibit, and are in bed with the rest, from the popular to the obscure. So they bundle the mass-appeal networks together with the special interest and fringe networks, thus mitigating risk throughout.
Although this practice is a bit Kremlin-esque, this is what allows networks to take big risks. Have you ever noticed how American TV is much better than other cultures's? Our ambitious shows do not have the same guaranteed viewership as football or American Idol, but those shows, along with the ruthlessness of the conglomerates, help the high-minded shows have a place in the cable ecosystem. Lena Dunham does not talk about this, but if Time Warner wasn't ripping people off for cable and internet, there would be no Girls.