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YouTube challenges Twitch by expanding $5 channel memberships

Platform rolls out service to wider group, adds built-in merchandising tools

After a rocky year seeing its competition gain traction while complaints about monetization mounted, YouTube is trying another tactic. The company is rolling out YouTube Memberships as a convenient path to monetization, alongside new merchandise options for select creators.

YouTube Memberships look suspiciously like YouTube Sponsorships, which appeared in September of last year for a select group of creators. Both programs allow viewers to subscribe, Twitch-style, to a channel for $4.99 per month. In return, those viewers get to use badges, emojis, and can access members-only streams and videos.

According to Engadget, the difference this time around is that instead of only offering to a select group, YouTube has opened the floor to creators with at least 100,000 subscribers. YouTube plans to roll this out to an even broader swath of creators in the months to come.

Also, YouTube has partnered with Teespring to integrate something that many YouTube creators have been doing on their own for some time: merchandising.

US-based creators with 10,000 or more subscribers will be able to sell custom merchandise through their channels, though these items have to go through Teespring and are limited by the customization options for the items presented. These items include T-shirts, hoodies, pillows, and more.

Like Memberships, YouTube hopes to expand the merchandising program in the future and add more partners like Teespring for a broader array of product options.

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