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YouTube begins paid subscription pilot

YouTube's new subscription service lets content makers charge viewers to access their shows. The program is just a pilot for now.

YouTube on Thursday launched a new service for video content makers that lets them charge users to subscribe to their channels.

What Google calls just a "pilot program" for the time being, lets video makers charge users a monthly fee for access to their videos. The subscription plans start at 99 cents a month, but can be set higher. All paid channels offer a 14-day free trial and can be sold at a discount if users subscribe a year at a time, YouTube said in a post announcing the program.

The service is launching with 53 paid channels including content from HDNet, UFC and the PGA Digital Golf Academy. Some of those channels are beginning as high as $9.99 a month, which is $2 more than Netflix charges for its monthly streaming service in the U.S.

The program is just the latest way YouTube is trying to woo content makers to its platform beyond offering built-in advertising. Smaller competitors, including Vimeo, have been targeting content makers with paid, on-demand videos as a means to control distribution and pull in revenue.

Plans for the service were detailed earlier this week by The Financial Times, though hints that it was arriving showed up in strings of code as far back as February.

YouTube says the pilot program will expand to other "qualifying partners" in the next few weeks. In the meantime, it's set up a form for content makers to sign up to build paid channels.