YouTube to Bow Niche Pay Channels in 10 Countries

Google vidsite set to launch several dozen specialty subscription services this week

Mounting a fresh challenge to cable and satellite TV operators around the world, Google’s YouTube this week will launch several dozen special-interest subscription-video channels in 10 countries, according to execs familiar with the initiative.

The 10 countries, which represent about 1 billion people, are: U.S., Canada, U.K., Australia, Japan, Korea, France, Spain, Russia and Brazil, according to the sources. The Financial Times reported Sunday that YouTube is expected to launch up to 50 pay channels as early as this week.

Pricing for the channels — expected to run the gamut from movies to niche sports — will be variable, but will be as low as U.S. $1.99 per month.

YouTube said in a statement, “We have nothing to announce at this time, but we’re looking into creating a subscription platform that could bring even more great content to YouTube for our users to enjoy and provide our partners with another vehicle to generate revenue from their content, beyond the rental and ad-supported models we offer.”

Sources could not confirm which content providers are expected to be part of the launch.

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At YouTube’s Brandcast event for ad buyers last week in New York, company execs made no mention of the subscription-video plans, which they have been discussing at a high level for months.

Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s global head of content, last week told reporters the website has moved away from “these waves of announcements” on original channel partners. “Now it’s simply about finding the right talent and content,” he said.

Pricing for YouTube’s pay channels will be set by content providers. The revenue split for content owners will be better than the 45% cut of ad revenue YouTube has typically offered partners in its ad-supported original channels program, according to sources.

Subscribers must have a Google Wallet account to sign up for a pay channel. Content providers in the YouTube pay channels lineup will have the option to carry ads or not.

At the NewFronts event, Kyncl noted that several traditional media entities — Time Warner Inc., Comcast, Discovery Communications, The Chernin Group and Bertelsmann — have invested in companies that create or aggregate YouTube content.

YouTube, the most popular Internet video service by a long shot, now streams 6 billion hours of video to more than 1 billion unique users per month across the globe. YouTube is watched by a bigger audience of adults 18-34 in the U.S. than any single TV network, Kyncl said at the Brandcast event, citing Nielsen analysis.

SEE ALSO: Could YouTube Become as Big as CBS or Viacom?

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