LOS ANGELES — Roger Corman's campy B movies, children's shows like Sesame Street and Inspector Gadget, and inspirational monologues by celebrities — these are among the offerings on 30 channels that will soon require a paid monthly subscription on YouTube. Although the world's largest video site has rented and sold movies and TV shows from major studios since late 2008, most people watch videos on YouTube for free. It's the first time YouTube is introducing all-you-can-watch channels that require a monthly fee. The least expensive of the channels will cost 99 cents a month but the average price is about $2.99.
In the field of paid video content online, YouTube is playing catch up to services like Netflix, Hulu and Amazon, all of which have millions of paying customers.
But with 1 billion monthly visitors from around the globe, the Google-owned video service hopes to quickly add subscribers and add to the money it already makes from online advertising.
"This is just the beginning," said Malik Ducard, YouTube's director of content partnerships. The site plans to roll out a way for a broad number of partners to also launch pay channels on their own soon.
Corman, a producer and director whose influential cult classics like Deathrace 2000 and Piranha earned him an honorary Oscar in 2009, said he's kept his 400-film library off of video streaming sites until now.
He said he turned down an offer from Hulu for about $5,000 to $6,000 per film several years ago, but sees promise in the YouTube offering. His channel, Corman's Drive-in, will cost subscribers $3.99 per month for a rotating selection of 30 movies, refreshed with new interviews and clips from films that are in production. It is set to launch in June.
"I believed for many years that the future of motion picture distribution, particularly for the independents, is on the Internet," said the 87-year-old director. "I think the time is now."
YouTube will keep slightly less than half of the revenue generated by the subscriptions.
Corman's wife and producing partner, Julie Corman, said they were taken aback at YouTube's potential after a clip of their 2010 movie Sharktopus went viral with 11 million views.
If even 1 percent of those viewers signed up for a subscription, it would amount to a healthy revenue stream, she said.
"The numbers are astonishing. We're waiting for the fireworks display," she said.