YouTube may not be free for much longer. According to unnamed sources at the Financial Times, rumors are surfacing again that YouTube might start charging as soon as this week with as many as 50 subscription channels, particularly ones that provide professional services, starting as low as $1.99 a month per channel. This comes on the heels of YouTube’s latest announcement that it had defeated television in terms of viewer numbers.
The ongoing shift in the way the average person watches video has been documented and clearly profit can be made in the online model, however at this point the financial benefits online are not even close to that of television. It’s been estimated that digital video advertising will jump from $2.93 billion to $4.14 billion in 2013, but will only account for 2.4% of all ad spending with YouTube claiming the majority of that share.
YouTube told the Financial Times that it had “nothing to announce” regarding channel subscriptions but was “looking into creating a subscription platform that could bring even more great content to YouTube for our users to enjoy and provide our creators with another vehicle to generate revenue from their content, beyond the rental and ad-supported models we offer”.
YouTube has spent over $200 million in the past year and a half in hopes of being able to advance start-up channels to get unique content of interest to users of the site. These new channels have helped to grow YouTube’s audience to 1 billion users who watch about 6 billion hours of video per month.
If YouTube does decide to go to a subscription based service, it will be competing with the likes of companies like Netflix, Amazon Instant, and Hulu, among others.