The video giant is holding conversations with program providers about adding more top-shelf content to its channels but putting it behind a pay-wall as some newspapers have done, sources said.
Insiders familiar with YouTube’s plans stress the move doesn’t mean the Google unit is suddenly going to start charging for what is already available for free — but rather would add some premium offerings not on the site.
The new subscription model would satisfy owners of high-end programming in sports, music and entertainment which have balked so far at providing videos under YouTube’s advertising-only business model.
The ability to erect a pay wall around certain content is intriguing some existing content providers. Some of those executives are already programming YouTube’s fresh content channels, while others aren’t yet in the channel business with the company.
The pay wall plan certainly isn’t new thinking for the brass in Mountain View, Calif. YouTube CEO Salar Kamangar spoke in January at an AllthingsD event about such a subscription service, which would sit alongside ad-supported content.
Kamangar offered up the idea of a yoga channel as an example. “We’re a media platform and we want to [have] a business model that media partners demand,” Kamangar said.
To some extent YouTube is already giving transactional services. It offers movie rentals such as “My Week with Marilyn,” as part of a separate subscription video-on -demand service.
Google has a nother venture called Google Play where customers can pull out the plastic to access new and archive movies, music and books.
To date, YouTube’s only subscription venture in sports has been a partnership with a global service called WillowTV that gives access to cricket events around the world. Willow’s season-long subscription fee is $45.99.
A spokesman for YouTube said: “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 and viewers find more content to watch.”
He added: “There are a lot of our content creators that believe they would benefit from subscriptions.”
YouTube currently has an audience of 800 million users around the world who watch some three billion hours of content a month.
YouTube guards its financials closely but analysts have projected revenue at anywhere between $2 billion to $3 billion.
Capturing a bigger slice of advertising revenue is a top focus for YouTube which presented its original programming as part of the NewFronts, a digital video sales event for Madison Avenue buyers.
The potential revenue pot for YouTube and its partners is huge. Consumers spent some $8.95 billion on home entertainment products in 2011, according to the Digital Entertainment Group which tracks movies and TV shows.
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