Google has a new pitch for younger consumers disenchanted with cable and satellite TV: YouTube TV, a new “skinny” bundle of about 40 TV channels including ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and ESPN, priced at $35 per month.
The move, which has been expected, makes Google and YouTube the latest players to take the over-the-top field, as providers see a big opportunity to sell cheaper, multiscreen internet-delivered TV as alternatives to traditional pay-TV services.
The TV programming will be accessible both live and on-demand — and with no DVR recording restrictions. The subscription includes six accounts for $35 per month, with each profile getting its own recommendations and other personalized settings. However, subscribers are allowed to watch only up to three concurrent streams at once.
YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki said the service will initially launch in the next few months in major U.S. markets and will expand later to other cities. YouTube declined to provide specific launch dates; it currently has no plans to introduce the TV service internationally.
Execs positioned the new OTT service as a reimagining of television for the YouTube generation. “There’s no question that millennials love great TV content,” Wojcicki said at a press event Tuesday announcing YouTube TV. “But what we’ve seen is they don’t want to watch it in a traditional setting.”
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Missing from YouTube’s skinny bundle: Time Warner’s HBO and Turner networks, including CNN, TBS and TNT; Viacom networks like Comedy Central and MTV; Discovery Communications networks; and Scripps Networks Interactive’s channels like HGTV and Food Network. Robert Kyncl, YouTube’s chief business officer, said the company is always talking with media partners about distribution but he added that it does not plan to raise the $35-per-month price point.
The channels that are in YouTube TV come from four media groups: NBCUniversal, CBS, Fox Networks and Disney-ABC Television Group.
In addition to the major broadcast networks, YouTube TV will include cable channels ESPN, ESPN2, Fox News Channel, CBNC, MSNBC, USA, FX, Disney Channel, Bravo, E!, and National Geographic. It also will carry 10 regional sports networks from Fox Sports and Comcast SportsNet, giving YouTube TV overall coverage of 80% of live sports broadcast in the U.S., according to Kyncl. CBS’s Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus will be available as an extra add-on option.
YouTube TV will enable users to send live TV streams directly to HDTVs equipped with Google Chromecast (or Chromecast-enabled TVs), and in the future will work with connected TVs with the current YouTube app. The service also will be integrated with Google Home to allow voice controls and searching on YouTube TV.
In addition, YouTube TV will include access to original content from YouTube Red, which ordinarily costs $9.99 per month. Launched about a year ago, YouTube Red features original series like AwesomenessTV’s comedy “Foursome,” “Rhett & Link’s Buddy System” and “Scare PewDiePie” (although season 2 has been canceled) along with movies including Rooster Teeth’s “Lazer Team,” Smosh’s “Ghostmates,” Lilly Singh’s “A Trip to Unicorn Island,” and a documentary about transgender YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous.
YouTube TV will compete with Dish Network’s Sling TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, FuboTV and AT&T’s DirecTV Now, which the telco says attracted 200,000-plus subs in December thanks to a limited-time promo. Meanwhile, Hulu is planning to launch its own live TV bundle for under $40 per month, a service expected to debut in April.
YouTube is slotting in premium TV as a complement to the billions of other videos on the site, as it looks to cultivate a new subscription-revenue stream — and pull in more advertising from marketers’ TV budgets. Google will have the ability to sell a portion of the ad inventory on the networks in YouTube TV, as other pay-TV distributors do.
Wojcicki noted that YouTube announced this week that its users worldwide watch about 1 billion of hours of video every day, up tenfold since 2012.
The advent of YouTube TV marks the culmination of a years-long shift in the television industry’s stance toward the Google-owned video giant. Ten years ago, YouTube and Google were sued for copyright infringement (by Viacom, a suit that was ultimately settled); then TV networks began producing content specifically for YouTube. Now, said Kyncl, “We’ve evolved our relationships with media companies around the world… to be incredibly constructive.”
The interface for the YouTube TV mobile app includes three sections: live (with live previews of currently airing shows); library (with DVR recordings and VOD content) and home (to browse programming).
Separately, YouTube and Comcast announced a deal Monday under which the operator’s X1 customers will have access to YouTube videos integrated into the set-top service sometime this year. However, a Comcast rep said, the cable company will not be offering YouTube TV through X1.
Consumers can sign up to get notified about the availability of YouTube TV in their area at TV.YouTube.com.