Code given to developers to create new applications for YouTube, the worldwide video viewing service, appear to confirm suspicions that YouTube is preparing to launch a paid subscription service on the venerable site. AdAge says engineers at their company have unearthed code provided by Google, owner of YouTube, that very nearly proves that a paid channel subscription service is coming very soon to Google. CNET agrees, saying the code backs up hints Google and YouTube executives have been giving over the past several months. If such reports turn out to be true, it would mean YouTube, and by extension, Google, is preparing to compete directly with cable television providers, or those that offer streaming content such as Amazon and Netflix.
Up till now, YouTube has been mostly free. Some content has been hidden behind a paywall, but for the most part, whatever anyone posted to the site was free to be seen by anyone that chose to visit. A paid subscription service wouldn’t like change the free model that made YouTube a worldwide sensation, however, instead, CNET says it would simply add to options available to visitors. Possibilities include specialty deals with content providers such as Fullscreen, Machinima or Maker Studios. It also opens the door to airing of live events, such as news coverage or real time broadcasting of political turmoil, such as the uprisings that occurred in the Middle East over the past couple of years. CNET doesn’t believe YouTube is in any kind of position to attempt licensing of traditional televised content such as is done with non-network cable channels. Instead, it appears more likely that YouTube would look to create a niche for itself, similar to the way some programming has evolved on television, e.g. humor on the Comedy Channel care of The Daily Show, or the Colbert Report.
The code in question came in the form of function calls, with words such as “name=paid_channel_subscribe_message” making their purpose very clear. No one from YouTube or Google has commented on the code yet, which likely means the function calls were inadvertent, and not meant to be made public. AdAge says that if such a service becomes a reality, it’s likely Google would charge one to five dollars a month depending on what it has to deliver, and they believe it could happen as soon as Easter, or early summer. They also don’t exclude the possibility of Google adding more single episode content that has value being listed as a one off payment, giving it a platform for airing prized but limited content that no one else has.