Youtube_LogoYouTube is the foremost site for free user-generated video content. The platform draws more than 1 billion eyeballs each month because of its reputation for producing viral videos, introducing musical artists – including Justin Bieber – to the world and delivering compelling web series. YouTube plans to leverage its mass appeal and embark on a campaign to compete with traditional and new media distributors.

It’s an ambitious business plan that might cost the viewership – literally.

The Financial Times reports YouTube is unveiling a paid subscription model as early as next week. The site’s executives are gauging the costs for viewers, but Ad Age estimates YouTube will charge subscribers between $1 and $5 per month. YouTube is also mulling a potential pay-per-view model where audiences will have access to live events in exchange for a fee.

YouTube is not forcing subscriptions down-our-throats without giving us a taste of it first. The fee will only be applied to 25 to 50 channels in the beginning and will expand depending on its success. Ad Age reports YouTube has requested channel ideas from established producers and those selected will be included in the beta stage of the project. The site will also partner with successful YouTube networks like Maker Studios and Fullscreen to contribute to the subscription trial run.

Netflix, Hulu and traditional television networks will be engaged in the fight of their lives if YouTube’s plan is successful. YouTube had more than 1 trillion views in 2011 and this number is expected to expand as the platform continues to reach global audiences in more than 50 countries. Networks and distributors are concerned about how YouTube’s subscription model will impact their viewership.

Audiences should be worried as well. Imagine coughing up $5 per month to view “Between Women” or “The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl” or listen to Kid Fury’s latest rant. This decision could have an impact on the average person’s ability to access engaging content.

YouTube realizes the hesitation and is attempting to circumvent it. Executives have dished more than $200 million to promote the benefits of subscriptions. However, Google is pushing YouTube toward subscriptions to keep the overall brand profitable. There is value in revenue and Google wants a slice of it.

“We have long maintained that different content requires different types of payment models,” a Google spokesman said in a statement. “The important thing is that, regardless of the model, our creators succeed on the platform. There are a lot of our content creators that think they would benefit from subscriptions, so we’re looking at that.”

We may soon have to shell out cash for YouTube’s content, but there’s still time to enjoy the content free-of-charge. YouTube’s executives are expected to implement subscriptions in the second quarter of 2014.

Would you purchase a subscription from YouTube?

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