YouTube’s Pay-Channel Initiative Is Innovative, But Ultimately Flawed

Now this may be an unpopular opinion, but after closer inspection I’ve come to the personal conclusion that of the 30 paid YouTube channels rolled out, around 29 of them are horrendous (exception: The Young Turks, those guys are great).

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I’m not a rich man by any stretch of the imagination, but if I needed to shell out $2.99 a month for a YouTube channel, I certainly could. That being said, the only way I would pay upwards of $4.00 a month for any of these channels is if I were high on PCP or itching to see high quality rap battles (I’m not).

The biggest concern regarding paid channels to date has been in regards to sharing and viral videos in general. The idea being that if I am viewer X who has a subscription and I see something really amazing on Rap Battle Network and want to share it with viewer Y who doesn’t have a subscription, well, they’re plum out of luck. However, I don’t believe YouTube ever had viral sharing in mind when they hatched the concept for paid channels.

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As we now see from the official list of participating channels, very, very few of these channels are existing properties that had long-term viral status on YouTube. Take the Baby First TV Channel for example. In no way is that channel designed to create viral hits. This list of 30 channels represents what YouTube has wanted to dabble in for a while, which is TV-style viewing.

“Game of Thrones” is as popular as TV shows get right now, but the word viral or “sharable” doesn’t come into the equation when talking about cable shows. By cherry picking the shows that will support a paid model, YouTube is keeping their viral hit makers as they’ve always been — free and ad supported. This first batch of paid shows are an eclectic mix of specific tastes slammed into 30 individual channels created with the intent to appeal to the broadest demographic conceivable, and not to be shareable or viral.

As for YouTube opening up applications for creators to start their own paid channels, I think YouTube veteran Philip DeFranco put it best in a recent upload. Defranco said:

“I don’t think any YouTuber is stupid enough to be like, ‘Hey, you know how you like this? You gotta pay for it now, go fuck yourself.’ That YouTuber will go the way of countless YouTubers’ names that I can’t remember.”

What was first thought, or at least what I first thought the paid channel model would look like, is totally different than anticipated. This list represents the type of programming seen on any major cable network, and that isn’t YouTube. At the end of the day, YouTube creators know their audiences and they know viral videos. As for now, I doubt they’ll be willing to sacrifice that for a few bucks a month.

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