The world’s largest video website, YouTube, has unveiled its first subscription channels as the Google-owned service made a long-anticipated move to include pay channels to encourage professional content.
The move puts Google into direct competition with online services such as Netflix and Hulu, which offer subscription-based services and have been luring viewers away from cable and broadcast TV.
"Starting today, we're launching a pilot programme for a small group of partners that will offer paid channels on YouTube with subscription fees starting at $0.99 per month," a YouTube blog statement said on Thursday.
The statement said this is part of an effort begun in 2007 "that enables content creators to earn revenue for their creativity".
YouTube released a list of about 50 channels which will be part of the programme.
"Every channel has a 14-day free trial, and many offer discounted yearly rates," it said.
"This is just the beginning. We'll be rolling paid channels out more broadly in the coming weeks as a self-service feature for qualifying partners.
“Subscribers will be able to access the channels from a computer, phone, tablet or TV, "and soon you'll be able to subscribe to them from more devices," the statement said.
The new subscription service will be available in 10 countries at launch.
Google bought YouTube in 2006 for $1.65bn. The service is believed to generate a small amount of revenue from advertising, but the content has been free up to now.
YouTube has gradually added professional content, such as full-length television shows and movies to its vast trove of amateur video offerings in a bid to attract advertisers.
The new paid channels include Acorn TV, which offers ad-free British TV programmes at $4.99 per month; National Geographic Kids, at $2.99 a month; and PrimeZone Sports, at $2.99 per month.
Earlier this year Google said more than a billion people use YouTube each month, with viewing on smartphones helping drive growth.
"If YouTube were a country, we'd be the third-largest in the world after China and India," the team said in March.