Until now, YouTube has been a mostly free service with a few ads thrown in to keep the money rolling. According to an article in Ad Age, that's about to change with new premium channels that you'll need a paid subscription to view.
Now before you run off screaming that it's your God-given right to watch all the free kitty cat videos you want, it's YouTube's goal to attract new professional content that wouldn't otherwise be available on a free site like YouTube. It's similar to YouTube's paid movie rentals, although in this case it would be an ongoing subscription to a channel.
While most of us have become accustomed to not paying for online services, I think there could be a real upside to this business model. For example, I currently pay a hideous monthly fee for my cable TV, but there's really only a handful of channels that I want which aren't otherwise available through various online services. If I could fill those gaps with a few YouTube subscriptions I might finally be able to dump my overpriced cable service, and what a joyful day that would be.
YouTube says that it will start rolling out the subscription service for users in the U.S. in the second quarter of this year, with subscriptions costing between $1 and $5 per month.