Peter Kafka

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YouTube Paid Video Could Come “In the Not Too Distant Future”

111409ATDyoutubeYouTube is serving up more than a billion videos per day and all of them are free. That could change soon, says YouTube executive David Eun.

Eun, who runs partnerships for Google’s site, confirmed earlier reports that YouTube is looking to stream movies and/or TV shows that aren’t available on the site now and won’t be supported by advertising. So someone, either consumers themselves or a sponsor who picks up the tab, would need to pay for them directly.

When? “In the not too distant future,” Eun says–while leaving enough wiggle room for Google (GOOG) to avoid actually saying that it is committed to any particular plan.

Here’s an excerpt of an interview I conducted with Eun a few days ago (you can see all of it in the video below):

David Eun: We’ve been thinking about how to provide access to more and more content, and a lot of that content isn’t available through an ad model. So we’ve been thinking about different ways to access content and have producers of content come to YouTube and pick different monetization models.

Peter Kafka: Just to be clear, when you say that when it’s not accessible through ad models, you’re saying a consumer would pay for it in some way directly? A one-off or a subscription model?

DE: Potentially. A consumer. Or a sponsor. But there’d be a different business model behind that….

PK: And when might we see some of these alternate [paid] versions of YouTube products coming out?

DE: We’re still testing things, and we want to make sure that we’re working with partners and making sure that we’re meeting their expectations. But timing? In the not too distant future.

PK: First quarter, second quarter?

DE: In the not too distant future.

YouTube officials will want me to note that the site isn’t talking about charging consumers for the stuff that’s on the site now and that none of this is a done deal yet. Noted.

But YouTube’s plans synch up with plenty of other video players hoping or planning to do something along the same lines. Hulu, for instance, is trying to put together some kind of premium service that will sit on top of its free site. And Apple (AAPL) is exploring its own subscription service for TV shows.

Eun, like every other Google executive, doesn’t like to get nailed down on specifics about YouTube’s performance or plans. But he did walk through a few other things of note with me in the interview:

  • The role of DoubleClick, the display ad network Google acquired last year, in boosting the site’s revenue.
  • The prospects for YouTube’s eventual profitability, which he says is also “in the not too distant future.”
  • The structure of YouTube’s deal with Vevo, big music’s video site, and chances that the company could do something similar with other types of clips.

If you want to skip past some awkward introductory stuff, head to the 1:40 mark in the video below. And turn up the volume after the preroll ad because Eun is a soft talker.

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