By Sahil Patel
YouTube could roll out an ad-free, subscription version of its video service as early as this year. In the meantime, the company is notifying creators that their terms are being updated so that they can share in that revenue.
In a letter distributed to its creator community, YouTube said that creators should expect their terms to be updated as the site seeks to launch a paid version and create a new revenue stream for both YouTube and the creators. “By creating a new paid offering, we’ll generate a new source of revenue that will supplement your fast-growing advertising revenue,” the note said.
News of the letter was first reported by Bloomberg, which also said that the service could go live by the end of the year.
“While we can’t comment on ongoing discussions, giving fans more choice to enjoy the content they love and creators more opportunity to earn revenue are always amongst our top priorities,” said a YouTube spokesperson in a statement. The spokesperson did not comment on timing or price.
Plans for a subscription version of YouTube were initially revealed by its CEO Susan Wojcicki in October 2014. “We are early in the process [of launching a subscription product], but if you look at media over time, most of them have both ads and subscription services,” she had said at the time. “YouTube right now is ad-supported, which is great because it has enabled us to scale to a billion users. But there’s going to be a point where people don’t want to see the ads.”
Of course, a paid version of YouTube would also bring the site closer to Vessel and Vimeo, both of which have been encroaching on YouTube’s turf when it comes to working with online video creators. Vessel offers content for free and and via subscriptions — though, like its CEO Jason Kilar’s former company, both versions come with ads. Vimeo, meanwhile, also has plans to introduce a subscription offering in 2015.
For YouTube, its SVOD play will just be the latest in a series of product launches to expand beyond its core, ad-supported platform. In the past few months, the company has launched a beta version of YouTube Music Key, a subscription music streaming service (that also offers an array of video content), and YouTube Kids, a mobile app that delivers kid-friendly video content in a protected environment. YouTube Kids has already surpassed 2 million installations, the company said in the letter.