YouTube has introduced paid subscriptions in India, but we’re not sure if it has any takers. The one channel with Indian content that we found, Bhakti Times, from MiMedia, is priced at Rs 65 per month. Its first video went live three weeks ago, and it’s not clear whether it has any subscribers. YouTube’s list of public paid channels has only 26 listed, and these can all be subscribed to from India.   The service was apparently rolled out very quietly, late in December 2013. The company, however, did not comment on which channels have begun offering paid subscriptions in India. YouTube presently allows paid subscription in 15 out of the 61 countries in which it is present. Other countries include Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, South Korea, Spain, United Kingdom and United States.

youtube-paid

In a statement, YouTube told MediaNama that:

“We’ve been building a YouTube partner program since 2007 that enables content creators to earn revenue for their creativity. We’ve watched them build amazing channels that have made YouTube into a news, education and entertainment destination one billion people around the world cannot do without.  Paid Channels is the next step in rolling out more monetization options for creators in India, offering paid channels to channels in good standing with at least 10,000 existing subscribers. ” 

Eligibility criteria: Content partners need to fulfill the following criteria to get an approved paid subscriptions channel:

  • Hold a good standing: the YouTube account should not have faced any copyright strikes, no breech of community guidelines, and not more than one video blocked worldwide
  • Meet the general criteria for YouTube Partner Program
  • Hold an account verified by phone
  • Hold an approved AdSense account linked to the YouTube account
  • Own a free channel with at least 10,000 active subscribers
  • And should be located in one of the listed countries

Channels containing content in multiple languages are required to disclose the list of languages.

Subscription prices can be set based on the retail prices suggested  by Google. The valid retail price range set for India is between Rs 5 to Rs 20,000, though as per YouTube’s policy, the set price should end in 5: for example, Rs 95, 105, 125. All new subscribers receive a 14 day free trial period. Subscribers may be billed monthly or annually. By default, YouTube does not run ads on channels with paid subscriptions. However, content partners may enable ads on their paid channels, allowing for a mix of advertising and subscription revenue. Partners get 55% of the revenue, whether advertising or subscription based, from what we’ve heard.

Content partners may also package multiple channels for a paid subscription offer. It is important to note that enabling paid subscription on a free channel would automatically unsubscribe all existing subscribers. It is not clear if the channel can enable paid subscriptions in all the countries that have the feature.

Content owners can also provide an ads-free version of an ad-supported channel. Apart from this, paid channels can feature both free and paid videos: for this content owners will have to change the free or paid status of individual videos in the paid channel.

MediaNama’s take (by Nikhil Pahwa)

It’s important to note that by ensuring that content creators do not convert existing free-to-stream channels into paid ones, YouTube is keeping its advertising revenue stream largely unaffected. Channels with substantial subscribers would otherwise be tempted to cut off access to content for their subscribers, like a paywall. Instead, channel owners are now more likely to set up a separate paid channel, and promote it on their existing content.

The option of having paid subscription along with free videos can now enable content makers to monetize some of their premium content. This could work quite for niche content, especially education, where the viewers have a clear idea of what they are looking for.

Entertainment channels could also use this feature to make viewers pay for latest films that they would like to watch, which means that YouTube will provide competition for subscription based service providers like BoxTV, Spuul, Sony LIV, ErosNOW and others, but this invariably depends on whether content owner are willing to forgo advertising revenue for subscription revenue (and limited reach).

Lets also not forget that India is a graveyard of online premium content subscription services: they launch paid, then typically switch to freemium, and eventually switch to free-to-air, before shutting down.

Update: parts of this post have been edited for the sake of clarity.