Report: YouTube will start charging for premium content

YouTube (s GOOG) plans to launch paid subscriptions as early as this spring, according to unidentified sources cited in AdAge. The sources say that YouTube is asking media companies that have already gained large a YouTube following — like Machinima, Maker Studios and Fullscreen — to submit ideas for paid channels that would cost “somewhere between $1 and $5 a month.” A Google spokesperson confirmed to AdAge that YouTube is “looking at” subscriptions.
YouTube would initially launch around 25 paid channels, according to the report, and “is also considering charging for content libraries and access to live events, a la pay-per-view, as well as self-help or financial advice shows.” It’s unclear if the channels would cost $1 to $5 apiece or would be lumped together as an inexpensive bundle.
YouTube’s paid offerings might help the site compete against streaming services like Netflix (s NFLX), Hulu Plus and Amazon Instant Video, all of which are developing their own original content. But the subscriptions would also give content creators with large audiences a chance to pull in revenue beyond ads. And the opportunity to charge might provide brands that were previously wary to put video up on YouTube with the incentive to do so.
Will viewers pay? They might if transactions are easy — Google could integrate Google Payments, for instance — and might also be interested in perks like downloads for offline viewing, or bundles of videos that previously had to be tracked down individually.
Update: A YouTube spokesperson sent us the following statement about the site’s plans:

“We have long maintained that different content requires different types of payment models. 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.”