YouTube TV Launches in Five Markets

For $35 a month subscribers will have access to programming from more than 50 networks.

YouTube has launched its live television service in limited markets.

The service, YouTube TV, is now available in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago and Philadelphia. For $35 per month, subscribers will have access to live television programming from more than 50 networks including ABC, NBC, CBS, Fox and ESPN. AMC Networks, including AMC, BBC America, IFC and Sundance TV, will also join the service soon. Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus are available for an additional charge.

YouTube TV is the culmination of several years of work at Google-owned YouTube and represents a radical shift in the company's business from its roots as an ad-supported platform for user-generated video to a full-fledged provider of traditional television programming.

"This is such a new marketplace," says YouTube vp content partnerships Kelly Merryman. "Our goal from the beginning was to really listen to our users and understand from them what they loved about TV and what they want changed. What we recognized is that it was really distribution that was a struggle for them. They wanted the experience that they were used to from YouTube, Spotify and Netflix so that they could watch programming anywhere they wanted, whenever they wanted, wherever they wanted, on any device."

She notes that they weren't looking for a complete package of linear television but a combination of popular programming and a good experience. The popularity of AMC's The Walking Dead, for example, led YouTube to strike a deal with the cable programmer, the only company in the bundle that does not also operate a broadcast channel.

In addition to its offering of live, traditional television programming, YouTube TV will also give members access to its slate of YouTube Red originals. But YouTube Red, which offers ad-free viewing and access to those same originals, remains a separate product. 

YouTube TV also comes with unlimited cloud DVR that will store shows for up to nine months. The service works on a phone, tablet or computer and will stream to a television using a Google Chromecast. Support for other connected TV devices is expected later this year.

YouTube TV enters a crowded marketing for streaming TV services designed to entice people who don't want to pay a cable company to watch their favorite shows. Already Dish offers Sling TV; Sony has PlayStation Vue; and AT&T has DirecTV Now. Hulu is also working on its own live streaming service.

To entice new users, YouTube is offering a free trial for 30 days and will give new members a Google Chromecast after they make their first month's payment.

YouTube says that YouTube TV will become available in more markets.

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YouTube TV — regular TV, over the internet, for $35 — has arrived

YouTube is going to start selling TV today. At least to people who live in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and two other cities.

This is the 50-plus channels, $35-a-month service YouTube announced in February. The one major update since then: It will be adding channels from AMC Networks, including BBC America and IFC.

That makes AMC the only pure-play cable programmer in the bundle; the rest of the networks in the package are either broadcasters (CBS) or owned by broadcasters (ABC/Disney’s ESPN).

I haven’t played with YouTube TV yet, though it has a 30-day free trial, so I’ll noodle around with it over the next few days.

I assume, since the people who work at YouTube and Google are smart, it will be a pretty slick piece of software.

I also assume that it will work, more or less, like the other internet TV systems that have launched in the past couple years: It’s an updated interface on top of a fairly traditional bundle of TV channels.

Can you hear the ennui in my typing? It’s partly because I’m sick. (Sorry for the overshare!) But it’s also because these internet TV packages, which seemed ground-breaking and/or impossible just a few years ago, now seem pretty ho-hum. They’re all basically delivering the same thing, with slight tweaks for pricing and channel lineups.

And it’s really because I have yet to get the sense that regular people actually want this stuff.

Some people do: Sling et al have likely rounded up at least one million subscribers, which isn’t nothing.

But the more I see of these packages, the more I see the traditional TV business trying to stave off cord-cutting/cord-nevering by selling the same packages people aren’t buying already, with new wrappers.

I know why the TV Industrial Complex wants these things: They think they can sell people on the notion of flexibility and a slight cost savings (remember that when you pay $35 for YouTube TV, you still need to pay another $50 or more for broadband, likely delivered by Comcast*, Charter or some other pay TV company you say you hate) without fundamentally disrupting their business.

Doubt it.

Which doesn’t mean I don’t want these folks to try. I’m certainly up for new ways to access traditional TV. (Hulu, which is launching its own pay TV bundle this spring, has done away with the standard cable TV grid, which sounds like a nothingburger unless you’re an old like me and are used to finding TV that way.)

And at a bare minimum, the fact that internet TV isn’t geographically constrained, like traditional pay TV is, is worth applauding.

It means that instead of a choice of one or two TV providers, you now have a half-dozen or more, which means that they will gradually be forced to distinguish themselves based on price and selection.

That’s good!

But it’s not mind-blowing. So forgive me if I’m not doing cartwheels about this stuff. Also, does anyone have any green tea?

*Comcast’s NBCUniversal is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.


West Coast tech giants Google and Amazon are amping up their offensive to win your eyeballs, your viewing data — and your wallet.

On Wednesday, just 24 hours after Amazon announced its first major sports deal — tying up with the NFL to stream 10 Thursday night games — Google laid claim to viewers’ credit cards by debuting YouTube TV, a bundle of 50 major television channels for $35 per month.

The YouTube unit, run by Susan Wojcicki, wants to replace your cable company — but the effort went off half-cocked, opening in just five regions — the New York City metro area, the San Francisco Bay area, Los Angeles Chicago and Philadelphia.

The TV packages would also be geographically different, a result of local broadcast TV groups that are yet to sign on.

YouTube TV is free of charge for the first month though Apple device users will pay an extra $5 per month.

Wojcicki, in an interview with CNN, bragged that YouTube is reaching more of the coveted 18- to 49-year-old demographic than traditional TV, on mobile alone.

For the first time, she added, “media buyers are looking at YouTube right alongside their TV buys.”

That sentiment seems about a month old, in view of the recent comments of advertisers who yanked YouTube ad spending in after finding their spots tied to hate-spewing sites.

On Wednesday, YouTube TV’s offerings included a live English soccer match between Chelsea FC and Manchester City — making it stand out from standard cable offerings. Customers can add a Fox Soccer Plus channel for $15 and Showtime for $11.

Still, the bundle as structured did not include channels from Turner Broadcasting, Discovery, Viacom or Scripps. AMC Networks said its channels are coming soon.

“What’s going to happen when people realize there’s no [complete] March Madness or the NBA playoffs,” said one TV source about the absence of Turner.

The bundle does offer Fox News and MSNBC but not CNN.

The YouTube entry follows on the heels of Amazon’s streaming TV upgrade. The NFL package will help the e-tailing giant sell more league merchandise and lure users to click on other products, sources said.

Amazon will stream games broadcast on both CBS and NBC with the same ad lineup — plus will be able to sell a small number of ads in each break.

“Its the Amazonification of TV,” said The Diffusion Group’s Joel Espelien, explaining that tech companies can offer streaming skinny bundles at very low margins. He said the Google-owned live TV bundle was an effort to “move up the monetization food chain.”

YouTube TV will be the fourth entrant in the virtual TV space — following Sling, DirecTV Now, PlayStationVue, and will soon faceoff against a formidable force in Hulu’s upcoming bundle and smaller independent offerings from operators such as Pluto TV.

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