YouTube has unveiled its first paid subscription channels as the Google-owned video service mounts a challenge to streaming services such as Netflix.
The move also puts Google into direct competition with services including Hulu and Amazon which 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 US$0.99 per month," a YouTube blog statement said. It 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 some 50 channels which will be part of the programme. Subscription rates go as high as US$7.99 per month.
"Every channel has a 14-day free trial, and many offer discounted yearly rates," a YouTube blog post said.
Subscribers will be able to access the channels from a computer, phone, tablet or TV.
Google bought YouTube in 2006 for US$1.65 billion. 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 advert-free British television programmes at US$4.99 per month; National Geographic Kids, at US$2.99 a month or US$30 a year; and PrimeZone Sports, at US$2.99 per month.
Other channels offer programming from UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship), Comedy.tv, and iAmplify Fitness. A children's channel from Sesame Street is also coming, YouTube said.