Since its creation, YouTube has been available to everyone – Well, aside from private videos, of course – for the grand price of zero dollars and zero cents. But that might be about to change, if an offhand comment from the global head of content at the Google-owned company carries the weight it seems to. Are you ready for pay-to-view YouTube channels?
Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s global head of content, was speaking at “The War for The Living Room” panel at this year’s Abu Dhabi Media Summit today when he suggested that the company is considering a proposal to allow some of its original content channel partners to install a paywall to monetize their content on the site. “The majority [of channels] will be ad-supported,” he said, but “there will be some that will be paid.” Expanding on the subject when talking to the Hollywood Reporter after his panel appearance, he said that YouTube has no set plans to allow partners to make their channels pay-subscription only at this point, and that discussions are at such an early stage that he wouldn’t want to speculate on potential subscription fees or a launch date for the subscription model.
The question of how to successfully monetize YouTube – a site that, more than most, relies upon a model where users can stumble upon content by accident, and freely share it without fear of being penalized for doing so – has been one that the company has wrestled with for some time. Currently, the site offers different levels of advertising for different videos, with Kyncl saying that more popular videos, or specifically branded content, can be offered at higher ad rates; the explanation he offered was that a video of a dog on a skateboard would normally sell ad time at $2 per thousand advertisers, but if the video appeared on Tony Hawk’s official channel, it could be offered at anything up to $20 per thousand viewers.
Currently, Kyncl says, YouTube is looking to “take the friction out” of the ad process, looking at ways to maximize revenue for the site and its content partners. The current model sees YouTube selling ads on the channels and keeping all revenue until its original investment has been repaid via ad dollars. When that goal is reached, he says, all advertising revenue will be split evenly between YouTube and the channel partner in question.
It remains to be seen whether or not installing paywalls would harm the new content partner channels in enough of a way that it would result in lowered revenue, at least in the short term. After all, even if viewership drops, is the resultant loss in ad income really going to be high enough that it’ll mean the site and partner earn less considering the remaining viewership will be paying to view…?