Back in May, after much speculation, YouTube finally unveiled their first-ever paid channels. Most costing a few dollars a month, the paid channels put exclusive content behind a paywall, ultimately changing an aspect of YouTube that users are quite comfortable with.
Mainly, getting stuff for free as long as they can put up with some ads every now and then.
And according to some of YouTube's early partners in the venture, things haven't really taken off as fast as they previously hoped.
Variety quotes two high profile paid channel owners who both say that they're a bit disappointed with the returns they're seeing from their paid channels.
“We had hoped to set the world on fire. We are not setting the world on fire right now,” said the National Geographic Society, who launched a paid kids channel back in May.
"[It's] working OK. Not amazing,” said Mark Cuban, who opened up AXS TV when the pilot program launched.
It's not all bad for YouTube's paid channel initiative, however. Sesame Workshop claims to be "very happy" with the performance of their paid channels.
“We’re in the early days of piloting paid channels. Just as the Partner Program empowered creators to take their channels to the next level, we look forward to seeing how creators bring new content to their fan communities on YouTube,” said YouTube in response.
And YouTube is right about being in the early days. As of today, there are only 51 paid channels in the pilot program. They range from $0.99 a month to as expensive as $7.99 per month. Some channels even offer yearly subscriptions for as low as $24.99 a year or as high as $67.99 a year.
YouTube will expand the initiative - when they're ready. And opening up the program will vastly expand the type of content that is offered, meaning your average, everyday YouTube channel will eventually be able to but their content behind a paywall.
"This 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. And as new channels appear, we'll be making sure you can discover them, just as we've been helping you find and subscribe to all the channels you love across YouTube. Just as the partner program empowered creators to take their channels to the next level, we look forward to seeing how this great community of creators moves ahead with a new way to reach the fan communities that made their channels a hit," said YouTube when they first launch the paid channels pilot program.
Will a better selection tempt users to buy into the paid model? That remains to be seen. Like any subscription-based service, people are only going to pay if they deem the content worth paying for.
Plus, when most people think YouTube, they think free videos. Sure, you have to put up with ads - but the core appeal of YouTube has always been that it was free. Free hosting, free viewing. Other subscription videos services like Hulu and Netflix, as well as traditional cable options and HBO, never had to cross over the "free" barrier - those services always cost money from the get go.
In order for YouTubers to pony up $7.99 a month for a channel subscription - those channels are going to have to offer some high quality content. Have you subscribed to a YouTube channel yet? Are you waiting for more options? Or are you the type of person who would never, under any circumstances, pay you watch a YouTube video?