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YouTube Fires Up Subscription TV

Mari Silbey

In a salvo against traditional pay-TV providers, YouTube Inc. has launched a pilot program that gives its content partners the ability to offer subscription video channels for as little as US$0.99 per month. Its initial group of 63 partners includes HDNet, the UFC, and National Geographic Kids. In a blog post Thursday, Google's YouTube also highlights a Jim Henson Family TV channel that will go live with full episodes of Sesame Street. From its early days as a free, user-generated content site, YouTube has gradually evolved into an ad-supported Web portal with a growing volume of select premium video content. The company has had a content partner program in place since 2007, and has invested millions in developing professional content as a way to drive advertising revenue. (See YouTube Kills OTT Video Deals.) All new subscription channels on YouTube will be available with a 14-day free trial. Programmers will then be able to charge consumers either a monthly rate, or a discounted annual fee. The Jim Henson Family TV channel, for example, is currently priced at $2.99 per month, or $24.99 per year. Once consumers subscribe on their PCs, they will be able to access the channels on a variety of other video-enabled devices, including tablets, smartphones and connected TVs. So YouTube is clearly going the multi-screen video route with its premium content. YouTube notes on its blog that this week's subscription TV launch is "just the beginning. We'll be rolling paid channels out more broadly in the coming weeks as a self-service feature for qualifying partners." — Mari Silbey, Special to Light Reading Cable

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