When most people think of YouTube, they think of user-generated content (UGC) that focuses on cute cats and fan videos. The fact is that YouTube has had pay-per-view content for years, and now its movie rental library is filled with some appealing and current titles with something for just about everyone.
But a recent post in the company’s Partners and Creators blog points toward an expansion of the pay-per-view offering from third-party content providers. YouTube has announced that members of their YouTube Live program will now be able to create live streaming content, and charge a fee to view it.
Some people may see this as just one more attack on the tradition of “free” content on YouTube and on the Internet in general. I tend to view it a bit differently. This could be a huge boost for events with niche audiences, such as rock bands or sports that cannot draw an audience large enough to attract coverage by a major network. The pay-per-view option will let some or all of the cost be shared by the fans of the content, reducing the need for commercial sponsors. I expect that this model could end up making much more content available, not less, because it creates the opportunity for the coverage to be “crowd funded” by the very people who want to access the content. We’ll have to see how this develops, but I think it’s a move in the right direction.