YouTube has been toying with the idea of charging its audience to watch videos for some time now, but it was only earlier this year that a leaked memo confirmed that YouTube would allow viewers to pay to watch videos without ads. According to Re/code, which cited unnamed industry sources, YouTube will also make some content exclusively available to those paying users.
As Re/code previously reported, YouTube is funding new content from some of its top talent–think the likes of Bethany Mota and Michelle Phan–and Re/code notes that those are the videos that will likely be placed behind a paywall. YouTube will announce the specific programming at an event on Wednesday.
By encouraging people to pay to watch exclusive content from its most bankable stars, YouTube is simply following the same model as other streaming services–though unlike Apple Music and Netflix, it will continue to offer a free, ad-supported tier. The effort also doubles as a way to keep talent from straying to another platform: YouTube insisted that any content creators who make money off the site’s advertising must also make their videos available in the ad-free tier.
In Fast Company‘s August 2014 cover story, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki–a champion of the site’s native celebrities–hinted at funded content that could double as programming for TV and YouTube:
Wojcicki seems ready to invest even more deeply in YouTubers. “We have all these pretty nascent creators. What do they look like in five years? Do they have longer shows? Can we help them economically to grow their shows? I don’t think we need new creators. All that content is original content, but how do we make it even better?”
Although Wojcicki wouldn’t discuss any future plans, one source says that YouTube is, in fact, already pairing some of its stars with Hollywood producers to create longer-form programs that could be cut into 11-minute segments to work both on YouTube and on TV. “Traditional content, I think it works on YouTube. I don’t want to say it doesn’t work,” Wojcicki says carefully, “but it doesn’t always take advantage of the fact that it’s a new and different medium.”
Citing industry sources, Re/code says the new content likely won’t arrive until next year, but that YouTube may launch the paid tier as soon as this month.