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YouTube Will Make You Pay to See Some of Its New Videos

The world's biggest video site paid for some new programs and will put them behind a paywall.

Stephen Lovekin/FilmMagic for YouTube
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Coming to YouTube: Videos you’ll need to pay to see.

The world’s biggest video site is readying a slate of programming that will only be available to people who join its upcoming subscription services. YouTube will announce some of that programming, which it is helping to fund, at an event at its studio/event space in Los Angeles next Wednesday, October 21.

Industry sources say the programming is the product of an initiative the site announced last year, when YouTube said it would “fund new content from some of our top creators.”

At the time, YouTube didn’t say that stuff it was funding would be placed behind a paywall. But industry sources say the site now intends to use at least some of the content it is bankrolling as a bonus for its premium subscription service, which will also include features like ad-free videos.

YouTube will continue to operate a free, ad-supported version of the site, and has said that all of the videos that appear on the free site will be available on its paid version — which is why YouTube is insisting that all video makers who make money from YouTube ads need to participate in the subscription service as well.

It’s unclear when you’ll be able to see the new programming YouTube is announcing. Sources say some of the stuff YouTube is paying for hasn’t been created yet, and won’t be available until 2016. In September, I reported that industry sources expected YouTube to launch its subscription service near the end of this month, though it could slip past 2015.

A YouTube rep declined to comment.

YouTube’s funded content push is a variation on a strategy YouTube tried in 2011, when it doled out more than $100 million to a mix of content makers, including musicians like Jay-Z and Hollywood stars like Ashton Kutcher, to get them to make stuff for the site. That effort was largely considered a failure by the video industry.

This time around, YouTube has concentrated more on funding “endemic” video stars — people who figured out how to reach YouTube’s young audience, instead of people who became famous somewhere else.

When the company announced its funding plan last year, observers assumed YouTube was trying to keep its biggest names on its own platform, instead of heading out to rivals like Facebook or Vessel, the video site built by former Hulu CEO Jason Kilar.

In April, YouTube announced some of the new content it was helping to fund, including a series from Smosh stars Ian Hecox and Anthony Padilla and movies from DreamWorks Animation’s AwesomenessTV.

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