On Thursday, Youtube launched the first wave of paid subscriptions to a variety of channels. Of the 54 paid channels that are currently active, some are sports related, including channels for Fitness, the PGA Digital Golf Academy, TNA Wrestling, and the UFC.
But honestly, when it comes to the major sports leagues, I'm not sure if they have much of a future charging or subscriptions to Youtube channels. The NBA's Youtube channel is a behemoth, with over 3.4 million subscribers and 1.4 billion video views. The NHL is getting somewhere on Youtube despite over three million fewer subscribers than the NBA. Even MLB is getting in on the act, but their main goal is still driving people to MLB.com and their media empire.
Whereas companies like TNA and UFC have a vast backlog of material to upload to Youtube that isn't available legally anywhere else, the other sports leagues have *too much* possible content. It's one thing for TNA or UFC to upload a two or three hour pay-per-view show. It's a completely different part of the argument for MLB, NFL, NHL, or NBA to upload multiple two to three hour games per week and possibly expect fans to pay for that in addition to their MLB.tv, NFL Sunday Ticket, NBA League Pass, or NHL Gamecenter subscription.
There's also a lot more replay value with wrestling and fighting. How many people watch a full sports game over and over again? Perhaps aside from your team winning the championship game, there aren't many games that you would *want* to watch multiple times. And even if your team did win the championship, wouldn't you just want to watch highlights of the big plays instead of sitting through stretches of three and outs or 1-2-3 innings? With a big fight or a big wrestling match, you really don't need to devote a ton of time to watching it. Sure, you can watch a highlight video, but cutting a 15-25 minute match down into two or three minutes seems a little lazy, don't you think?
The other sports that are currently indulging in paid Youtube subscriptions aren't of the action variety. Instead, they're instructional. You've got PGA golf lessons and fitness exercises available, both of which could be very enticing for people. The popular P90X workout DVDs cost $120 at retail. At that price, a lot of people are probably hesitant to pull the trigger. But hell, if they were available for $10 a month, I think more people would take the plunge. and simply not renew if they weren't satisfied or couldn't handle the workout. The same goes for golf lessons. A lot of people would love to improve their golf game, but going to a pro at your local course would cost an arm and a leg. Yeah, I *could* do that, or I could throw $5 per month at the PGA's Youtube channel and save myself a ton of money.
But the introduction of paid channels might end up having an effect on something much bigger than just sports highlights: a la carte cable programming. Sure, the prices now are a little out of whack compared to what you pay on your cable bill, but I think this could end up being a gamechanger in the future. If you could simply subscribe to the Youtube channels for the networks you wanted, and they streamed live programming, I'm sure more and more people would start to sprint away from the cable carriers and their boatloads of useless channels. Of course, that's a long way down the road.