Google to Add Paid YouTube Subscriptions
YouTube executives indicated this week that the company plans to add paid subscriptions to certain premium channels on the company’s streaming video site in the near future. These subscriptions could become available as early as this spring, according to the New York Times.
YouTube has for some time now been the most popular video sharing website on the internet. It allows people to upload videos directly to the site on almost any topic that they can then share with millions of users for free. Many well-known companies and celebrities now produce high quality content for YouTube. Until now, however, they only way for creative individuals to earn money from their content on YouTube was from advertising revenue.
Over the past few months, individuals who have watched content from YouTube providers with large followings and regular uploads may have notice a new “H+” icon on the video. This means it is a high-end provider and offers impressive, quality content, currently for free. However, Google (which owns YouTube) has decided that in the future, users will have to pay to access certain of the best of the best of these channels.
The specific fees required to access this content will vary, with most expected to fall between $1 and $5 per month depending on the channel. YouTube also plans to add additional protective services to the video feed, making it significantly more difficult to download the video feed while it plays. Currently, it is not difficult to download content from YouTube directly to the hard drive on a user’s computer. If this is left as-is, someone with a paid subscription would be able to download premium videos and then upload them somewhere else, allowing viewers to bypass the subscription.
The move toward a subscription option makes it clear that Google is looking to compete with larger streaming services. The company is working to attract content from larger production houses by giving them a means of charging for their material – and at the same time, working to boost the average quality of its content overall. Two of the largest competing streaming services, Hulu and Netflix, both require individuals to pay a monthly membership fee for the right to watch content. Hulu does offer a free option, but primarily only for shows that are already available through the parent company of the show’s creator, and even then only for a limited time and number of episodes.
It does not appear, however, that Google and YouTube are beginning the implementation of a serious plan to take on services like Hulu and Netflix. Jamie Byrne, YouTube’s director of content strategy, simply refers to it as “a good time to start experimenting.” Even during YouTube’s experimentation with subscription services, though, the site will likely remain primarily a free-to-access service that is largely supported by streaming video ads.
This experimentational approach is further supported by the fact that YouTube does not plan to implement the subscription on many channels initially – likely not more than 25 at first. The company’s hope, though, is that this will be only the beginning. It even mentions the possibility of someday offering bundles of channel subscriptions for one flat fee, much like today’s satellite and cable TV providers.
Google has not yet announced how this subscription service will impact the current ad-focused income model on YouTube, although it seems unlikely to abandon that model anytime soon. The company does plan to continue investing a significant amount of capital into developing high-quality original content, as evidenced by the $200 million it announced last fall it would spend on marketing original YouTube shows.
Adding value – creating useful content – has been a hallmark of quality SEO professionals for some time. Long gone are the days when stuffing a page with keywords would guarantee loads of traffic to a site. Now, all website content that is designed to attract visitors must actually be useful, whether that content is text, pictures or video. Web-savvy companies have used YouTube videos to promote their sites for many years. Those companies that have been particularly successful with this tactic are the ones that upload entertaining, informational or otherwise interesting videos, rather than merely commercials. YouTube’s move toward a partially subscription-based model means that the bar for content quality will soon be set even higher. Companies who are able to meet that challenge in their video SEO efforts, however, will likely find themselves standing out from their competition even more than before.
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