Big Bird, Caillou and Sonic could be part of YouTube’s subscription slate

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YouTube is getting close to launching a first set of channel subscriptions, and kids programming could play a prominent role: The Financial Times reported this weekend that a first slate of paid channels could launch as early as this week. The Times didn’t mention any publishers taking part in this push, but signs point to a number of kids publishers joining the party.

This Sesame Workshop channel offers full episodes of Sesame Street for a price - but ordinary YouTube visitors don't have access to it.

This Sesame Workshop channel offers full episodes of Sesame Street for a price – but ordinary YouTube visitors don’t have access to it.

Some YouTube and Google employees have been quietly testing a number of channels associated with the Sesame Workshop, Cookie Jar TV and the kids cable channel Baby First TV over the last couple of months. None of these channels are available to ordinary YouTube visitors.

YouTube accounts meant to test paid programming and other features on the site have had access to channels like the “Sesame Workshop Package,” which is offering full-length episodes of current and classic Sesame Street episodes, for a few months.

Also part of the tests: Spanish-language programming from Baby First TV.

Also part of the tests: Spanish-language programming from Baby First TV.

A test channel for Cookie Jar TV, which has an on-air distribution agreement with CBS, lists shows like Caillou, Inspector Gadget and Sonic Underground. Baby First TV has also tested the distribution of full episodes through YouTube, including Spanish-language programming.

Granted, publishers often experiment with all kinds of distribution and pricing schemes on YouTube. In fact, Sesame Workshop previously tried selling episodes of Sesame Street for $2 a pop for a few months.

However, the listings of episodes associated with the kids programming channels don’t actually feature a per-episode price tag. Instead, they’re just listed with a $ sign. That’s something YouTube only does in one other instance: Videos from Willow.tv, which has been offering subscription-based cricket streams for some time, are listed the same way. Take a look yourself at the screenshots below:

This is how full episodes of one of Sesame Workshop's test channels were listed on the site, including the price tag indicating a subscription package.

This is how full episodes of one of Sesame Workshop’s test channels were listed on the site, including the paid content price tag indicating a subscription package.

This is how YouTube lists pay-per-epsiode TV content, complete with a price tag.

This is how YouTube lists pay-per-epsiode TV content, complete with a specific price tag.

This is how content from Willow.tv, which is only available as part of a subscription package, is listed on the site.

This is how content from Willow.tv, which is only available as part of a subscription package, is listed on the site.

A YouTube spokesperson wasn’t available to comment specifically on these videos, but sent me the following statement via email:

“We have nothing to announce at this time, but we’re looking into creating a subscription platform that could bring even more great content to YouTube for our users to enjoy and provide our partners with another vehicle to generate revenue from their content, beyond the rental and ad-supported models we offer.”

A Sesame Workshop spokesperson declined to comment, and both Cookie Jar TV and Baby First TV didn’t reply to a request for comment.

Of course, it’s still possible that these tests were just that – tests that don’t result in actual commercial offerings. But eegardless of whether these channels are part of YouTube’s first subscription slate, it’s clear that kids programming makes a lot of sense as a premium offering for the service.

Netflix has had overwhelming success with kids content, and went as far as to revamp its entire UI for a dedicated kids experience. Hulu also launched a dedicated kids section last year to cater to young viewers. Offering dedicated channels with full episodes of kids shows could give parents, who at times feel uneasy about their little ones scouring across the entire YouTube catalog, more piece of mind about adding YouTube to their kids’ viewing destinations as well.

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