According to Gizmodo, which is reporting on a story published by The Financial Times (ironically, subscription required), YouTube's paid subscription service is coming this week. The rumor that is floating around says that 50 channels are going to be paid channels, and the cost is from $2 a month. YouTube isn't saying anything about it yet, according to Mashable, but we've been hearing about paid channels for quite awhile now, even seeing code popping up on Android devices that signal its imminent introduction, so whether it's this week or this month seems likely.
YouTube Paid Subscriptions: Will It Work?
I'm not sure how many people will be lining up to pay for certain channels...but there is a way I feel like it could work. Like, let's say you're VSauce, and you offer a free channel and always will. VSauce has over 3 million subscribers and over 2 million combined between VSauce2 and VSauce3. If VSauce were to come up with a paid channel (and I am in no way saying that they are or ever will), they have a huge fan base to draw from to make paid channels work. This is why we heard a lot of rumors about Machinima being approached to create a channel for a paid subscription, since they already have a tremendous following.
But I know that much of the thought is, "This isn't going to work. YouTube is free and people just want to see free stuff." I'd say overwhelmingly, that's probably the case. But a paid channel likely doesn't need millions of subscribers to work. If you even get a thousand at $2 a month per subscriber, that's $24,000 (before whatever various fees/taxes). While that's not enough to do it for a living, I imagine a VSauce-type of channel offering a paid alternative could get well more than a thousand people to sign up, especially if they tease some content on their free channel. Plus, $2 appears to be only the minimum amount charged.
Channels looking to succeed from the "ground up" will have to find other ways to promote their channel, which is going to be a new challenge for YouTube. But my guess is if 50 channels are launching, they all have built-in audiences and are hoping to be able to leverage their sizable fan base to get people to buy into the new channels.