The new arrangement, likely to be announced this week, require viewers who want to see certain producers' channels to pay $1.99 a month or more to subscribe, the people told several news outlets after the Financial Times first reported the pending announcement.
The overwhelming majority of content on the world's largest video website is expected to remain free.
The subscription option gives some YouTube content providers -- especially homegrown YouTube stars and major media companies -- a second way of profiting from their work, if fans pay to watch.
Right now they get revenue from the ads YouTube attaches to their videos.
But growing numbers of producers said the revenue wasn't enough. Talks on the subscription idea began last fall, the Los Angeles Times said.
The change would bring YouTube closer to the dual-revenue model of cable TV, where networks collect a monthly subscriber fee while also having advertising.
About 50 YouTube channels will initially participate in the program, the people briefed on the plan told the Financial Times.
Among the possible subscription content areas are children's programming, entertainment and music, The New York Times said.
Some subscription channels would still have ads, while others, such as participating children's channels, would be ad-free, The New York Times said.
YouTube said in a statement it had "nothing to announce at this time."
But it said, "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."
YouTube, owned by Google Inc., had expressed a desire to start charging viewers for content after it saw the successes of Netflix Inc., Hulu and other subscription-based video-streaming services.
Hulu is a joint venture of NBCUniversal Television Group, Fox Broadcasting Co. and Disney-ABC Television Group.
YouTube will process the payments through Google Wallet, a mobile payment system that Google's app store uses, The New York Times said.