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YouTube Boots Up Subscription Video Service

YouTube officially entered the subscription video market Thursday with the launch of a pilot program that will offer dozens of over-the-top channels starting at $0.99 per month.

According to a YouTube blog post, every paid channel comes with a 14-day free trial, with some channels available for discounted yearly rates. After consumers subscribe via a PC, they’ll have access to those channels on a range of connected devices, including phones, tablets and TVs. 

Among the early movers, Sesame Street will offer full episodes when its paid channel launches, while UFC's offering features recent replays and older, “classic” fights.

YouTube has posted a list of 53 paid channels that are participating in the pilot, including HombrePix ($1.99 per month), National Geographic Kids ($3.99 per month or $29.99 per year), PixL ($1.99 per month), and UFC Select ($5.99). YouTube didn’t outline how subscription fees will be divvied up, but the company told PaidContent that the partners will get “the majority share.” Those paid channels will complement YouTube's initial free, ad-supported model for specialized streaming video channels.

Among other services that will present YouTube subscription offerings: gay and lesbian network Here TV; the suite of eights channels -- Cars.TV, Comedy.TV, ES.TV, MyDestination.TV, Pets.TV, Recipe.TV, JusticeCentral.TV, and -- from Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios, Inc.; Grace Creek Media’s Sportskool Plus, a training/instructional service; and the Acorn TV and OnCue brands from Bob Johnson’s RLJ Entertainment.

“Today, there are more than 1 million channels generating revenue on YouTube, and one of the most frequent requests we hear from these creators behind them is for more flexibility in monetizing and distributing content,” YouTube said, noting that it will be rolling out paid channels more broadly in the coming weeks as a “self-service feature for qualifying partners.”

YouTube kicked off its partner program in 2007.