The online video service, owned by Google, is set to introduce subscriptions for certain “channels” – special pages on YouTube that offer original content – in the coming days.
YouTube currently has hundreds of channels, with content ranging from BBC shows to Jamie Oliver’s cooking tips, although they are funded entirely through adverts at present. Introducing subscriptions would allow enthusiastic YouTube users access to extra content, or let them watch videos without adverts.
In the longer-term, the move may also attract TV and film producers who want to sell their content but are unwilling to have it freely available. This could see YouTube become an increasingly real threat to traditional broadcasters, as well as internet firms such as Netflix.
Last week, Google chairman Eric Schmidt claimed that the service had already displaced traditional TV watching as a medium, although Britons tend to spend only 20 minutes on it a day compared to over four hours watching TV.
YouTube, which recently passed the 1bn-user milestone, will charge users as little as $1.99 (£1.28) per month for subscriptions, according to the Financial Times. The business made its first foray into paid content two years ago when it introduced movie rentals, which cost around £3.49 in the UK for newly-released titles.
A Google spokesperson said: “We have nothing to announce at this time, but we’re looking into creating a subscription platform that could bring even more great content to YouTube for our users to enjoy and provide our creators with another vehicle to generate revenue from their content, beyond the rental and ad-supported models we offer.”