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YouTube Starts Selling Subscriptions -- For Its Gaming Channels

Four dollars a month, but all the videos will still be free -- it's more of a donation than a subscription.


We already knew YouTube was planning to launch two paid subscription services. But here comes a third one. Sort of.

Starting today, a handful of gaming-related channels on the world’s largest video site will start selling $4-a-month subscriptions, formally dubbed “sponsorships.”

But these aren’t subscriptions in the usual sense of the word: All of the videos on those channels will continue to be free for everyone, regardless of whether you pay. The sponsorships are mostly symbolic, and give payers small perks like unique icons next to their usernames during live video sessions and access to sponsor-only chatrooms during those videos.

This is the same model that gaming video site Twitch uses to let some of its top streamers make additional dough, at $5 per month per subscriber. At the time when that company was bought by Amazon last year, subscriptions were bringing in an estimated $36 million per year.

Neither YouTube nor Twitch will confirm how the money from their subscriptions is split between the sites and their video makers; however, both companies say the latter group takes home the majority of the money.

The fact that this is launching before the other planned music and ad-free subscription services points to just how important gaming has become to YouTube. Global gaming head Ryan Wyatt said viewers watch 144 billion minutes of gaming videos per month.

“Views don’t really mean much, to be honest with you,” Wyatt said. “The thing we care about the most is watch time. That’s the true value of how much content is being consumed.”

YouTube also said that starting today, Android users who have the YouTube Gaming app will be able to broadcast live video of themselves using any other app on their phones. The mobile streaming feature was first announced at the Tokyo Game Show last month.

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