Some YouTube Paid Subscription Partners Say They’re Not Getting Enough People To Pay

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After YouTube launched paid subscription channels for content creators last May, some content partners have told Variety that they’re not getting enough paying subscribers.

YouTube’s contracts with partners involved in paid subscription channels state that they cannot disclose subscriber figures, but some have voiced concerns about their fledgling numbers. Google predicted that the paid subscriptions initiative should pick up by the end of this year and that it’s currently in a “pilot” period.

Adam Sutherland, senior vice president of global strategy and business developer for the National Geographic Society, told Variety that their paid kids channel, National Geographic Kids, has seen only limited success.

He explained: “We had hoped to set the world on fire. We are not setting the world on fire right now.”

Miguel Panella, CEO of RLJ Entertainment, which operates paid YouTube channels OnCue and Acorn TV, said that their subscription numbers so far “ha[ve] not been particularly high.” Still, Panella hasn’t given up hope on YouTube and sees potential in their model in the future.

Panella said: “We feel Google and YouTube have a long road ahead of them to build a robust subscription platform. Even though the audience is not quite right for us and the consumer behavior is not there today, they have tremendous reach and tremendous potential in terms of marketing and promotion.”

In response to the channels’ performances, YouTube said in a statement: “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.”

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However, not all pay partners are disappointed with their results. Sesame Workshop, which offers full episodes of “Sesame Street” with a monthly subscription of $3.99, said to Variety that they are “happy” with the number of subscriptions they’ve received.

YouTube launched their paid subscriptions back in May with 30 channels, including The Young Turks’ TYT Plus and the Baby First TV channel. It has also grown to include classic movie channel Corman’s Drive-In.

Reaction to YouTube’s paid subscriptions initiative have been mixed, with some, like Philip DeFranco, arguing that the model is “stupid” because forcing fans to pay for YouTube content would dwindle their fan base, while others say that it would give value to content creators and would add another stream of revenue.

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