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YouTube, Canadian shows join pay-per-view party

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HALIFAX — Canadian TV producers Corus Entertainment, DHX Media and OUTtv are among the partners helping Google’s YouTube move into pay-per-view streaming.

YouTube announced Thursday it has launched 30 premium channels in 10 markets, including Canada, the U.S., and the U.K., that can only be viewed with a subscription, priced as low as 99 cents per month. Each channel comes with a 14-day free trial.

Halifax-based DHX Media has three channels available for $2.99 a month or $24.99 a year each, which stream shows like The Busy World of Richard Scarry, Calliou, Heathcliff, Inspector Gadget, Super Mario and Yo Gabba Gabba!

"There is an insatiable appetite for kids’ content in the digital universe across the globe and DHX Media is positioned with our extensive library of evergreen favourites to satisfy that demand," said executive chairman Michael Hirsh in a release.

Corus’ channels, which are not available in Canada, offer children’s favourites like Babar, The Berenstain Bears and Franklin.

OUTtv’s Gay Direct, which is also $2.99 a month or $24.99 a year, bills itself as the "premier destination for the best in LGBT drama, comedy, variety, entertainment and feature film programming."

Chief operations officer Brad Danks said the deal reflects the company’s strategy to sell content internationally.

"It does present an opportunity for us to export Canadian content to seven countries and I have every reason to believe that Google will keep stretching to new territories over the next number of years," said Danks.

He acknowledged Netflix’s monthly subscription fee of $7.99 dictated how much he felt YouTube users would pay for Gay Direct.

"We think it’s exceptional value but Netflix has a pricing model you have to be aware of because your closest comparative is Netflix, really," Danks said.

"They’re different in that they’re an enormous aggregator but you have to sort of look at that. Based on that kind of measuring stick it was where (our price) would make sense. That can go up, that can go down in time, depending on how premium the service becomes and what the uptake is."

Although YouTube has rented and sold movies and TV shows from major studios since late 2008, most use the site as a free service. It’s the first time YouTube is introducing all-you-can-watch channels that require a monthly fee.

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 a billion monthly visitors from around the globe, the Google-owned video service hopes to quickly add subscribers and add to the money it 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 number of partners to launch their own pay channels soon.
Other channels will feature Roger Corman’s campy B-movies, children’s shows such as Sesame Street and inspirational monologues by celebrities.

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.

In an interview, 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."

— The Canadian Press, with files from The Associated Press

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