The VICE Channels

    Will You Pay for YouTube?

    Written by

    Derek Mead


    Think of your time on YouTube: Most of it is spent watching a two-minute cell phone clip waiting for five seconds of action. Now that Vine has that segment covered, would you pay for something that's, well, better? YouTube thinks you will.

    According to Ad Age, YouTube is talking to content partners about producing premium channels, which may roll out this spring for somewhere between $1 and $5 a month. That model could expand to pay-per-view style events, as well as potentially licensing content libraries or something to that effect. 

    YouTube has been working with content partners for awhile now on producing premium content, which is partially or wholly funded by YouTube. It's an effort by the site to push viewership beyond viral hits and music videos into become a complete content platform. That move mirrors Netflix, which says it wants to produce five original content series a year to take on HBO. But we're talking about YouTube here. Would you honestly pay for it?

    My guess is that people will, and in droves. It's for two reasons: a la carte cable services have been bandied about forever, but breaking the cable cartel remains nearly impossible. Furthermore, the future of gadgets aren't the gadgets themselves, but how well they connect with content. Netflix and YouTube are already entrenched in internet-enabled TVs and Blu-Ray players, which puts them at a huge advantage in the post-cable age.

    The simple fact is that cable programming is absurdly expensive, and getting exactly what you want is impossible. Sure, ESPN is great, but even as a sports fan I might forgo spending $5 a month for just that channel if I could. But paying per channel still hasn't happened.

    But YouTube might just go for it. I would absolutely pay $5 a month for YouTube sports, especially if it had more diverse coverage (and actually played games) than ESPN. The same goes for all kinds of original content. It's really hard to take the plunge for a $80 a month cable bill when one's constantly pinching pennies, but a la carte services are much more palatable.

    Just look at Netflix. At $7 a month, it's still a screaming deal, even if it doesn't have as much content as I could ask for. But there's one fatal flaw: Netflix only does reruns, which is great for binge watching, but isn't going to totally supplant the newness and relevancy around the water cooler as original programming.

    Still, cable continues to lose subscribers, and more flexible content packages are simply the way of the future. Netflix and YouTube, being behemoths across numerous platforms, are extremely well positioned to take advantage of that. So, yes, paying for a squirrel water skiing video sounds totally absurd. But paying a few bucks a month for the exact shows you want to watch, rather than a bloating package of pawn shoes and other iterative bullshit that never changes because there's no real competition? Yeah, you'll pay for that.