The world’s biggest video site lets anyone in the world watch just about any video in the world, for free. And YouTube keeps adding more free videos at a staggering pace: Its users upload 100 hours of clips every minute.
But a lot of people in the video business — including the people who run YouTube — think video-watchers may want to pay to watch some of this stuff.
- YouTube is preparing to launch a subscription music service, which would let users watch and listen to its clips without ads, in exchange for a monthly fee.
- YouTube is also preparing a system that will let users “fund” their favorite video-makers by making voluntary payments of up to $500.
- Meanwhile Patreon, which helps fans make recurring donations for video stars, is one of the video industry’s most buzzed-about startups, and just raised $15 million.
- YouTube video network Fullscreen, which may or may not sell itself in the near future, is reportedly working on its own destination site, where YouTube stars would charge fans for an exclusive “window” to see their work.
- Former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar, whose Vessel startup just raised around $75 million, is believed to also be working on a subscription service for “mid-tail” video, which would include some of YouTube’s most popular producers.
Note that none of the scenarios above involve removing free videos from YouTube altogether. Even people who want to pull videos away from YouTube for exclusive windows assume that the world’s biggest video site will remain the world’s biggest video site and help create demand for paid products.
But it will be very interesting to see how much, if any, video YouTube users are willing to pay for. If they can pay at all — YouTube’s core users are teenagers who have lots of energy but may find it difficult to make online payments.