While the traditional means of watching television content is quickly dying away—the cell phone killed the TV star—the content itself, which includes live sports and big network hits, is still as popular as ever. This conundrum has resulted in large media, telecom, and tech companies attempting to figure out a method for delivering the television content that people love in a new way: simply bundled, with a relatively low monthly cost, and available on all viewing platforms. Google-owned YouTube is the latest company stepping into the fray with YouTube TV, its $35/month OTT (over-the-top) video service that will offer live television plus unlimited cloud DVR storage, beginning today in five major U.S. cities.
What YouTube TV Offers
People living in New York, Los Angeles, the San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago and Philadelphia now have access to YouTube TV, a service that allows for live streaming of broadcast television networks like ABC, CBS, and FOX as well as cable networks, like USA and FX, on any viewing device—computers, phones, tablets, etc. In all, YouTube says there are dozens of networks available, plus YouTube Red (YouTube's premium subscription service that offers its own original content that you've probably heard of but won't pay for). YouTube TV also allows for a cloud DVR with literally "no storage limits" beyond a nine-month time limit, and the ability to stream what you've stored "whenever you want and wherever you go in the U.S."
The service sounds perfect for cord-cutters, but even better for cord-nevers, who don't want to deal with the high prices and limited options of traditional cable and network television. They're cordless, they need to be free!
How YouTube TV Compares to Existing OTT Services
YouTube TV is entering a very crowded marketplace, which frankly, is difficult to define. Of course YouTube TV aims squarely at traditional TV providers like Comcast, but its most direct competition comes from other OTT content providers like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and PlayStation Vue. For comparison, PlayStation Vue, which doesn't require a PlayStation console, provides essentially the same service as YouTube TV, meaning a bundle of live-TV networks as well as DVR cloud storage available on all viewing devices. Vue's "Access" package—the tier comparable to the only YouTube TV tier currently available—is slightly more expensive at $40/month. You can also purchase more expensive packages through Vue, which include more premium networks like HBO, but they also cost significantly more.
YouTube has also mentioned that YouTube TV will be gaining more channels in the future, including AMC, BBC America, IFC, and Sundance, although it's not completely clear if these channels will come at no extra monthly charge. As WIRED notes though, "it’s easy to imagine how a sprawling, hugely profitable company like Google could afford to subsidize the service to get it off the ground as it hatches a longer-term money-making strategy." So perhaps YouTube TV will indeed be able to keep the monthly price that low.
— YouTube TV (@YouTubeTV) April 5, 2017
The Future of "Television"
It's hard to say if more people will be drawn to YouTube TV than a service like Playstation Vue, which has attracted about 400,000 subscribers. It doesn't seem likely that the inclusion of YouTube Red will be a make-it or break-it selling point for the service, although YouTube does obviously have an incredible amount of cachet with those oh-so-coveted cord-nevers. Plus, we're talking about Google here. The company may have had some missteps with Google Glass and Google Plus, but there's still good reason to believe it can make a simple live-TV service as ubiquitous as YouTube, which at one point aimed to be as ubiquitous as television.
Look what we're saying here, is that "time is like a flat circle." And now Amazon is building bookstores and YouTube is in the TV business.
What do you think about YouTube TV? Let us know your thoughts below!