YouTube debuts TV subscription service, at $35 a month for 6 accounts

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Every day people spend almost as much time watching YouTube as TV. And now they can watch TV on YouTube.

On Tuesday YouTube debuted a cable TV-style subscription service so that people can pay to stream live and recorded shows from the four broadcast TV networks, and roughly three dozen cable networks through a new YouTube TV site and a new YouTube TV mobile app.

Called YouTube TV, the service will cost $35 a month for six accounts and will become available “in the next few months,” said YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, who announced YouTube TV during an event at the company’s YouTube Space LA studio in Los Angeles. YouTube has published a page on its site for people to sign up to be notified when YouTube TV becomes available in their area.

YouTube TV will carry 40 total TV networks, including local broadcast channels and cable networks like Bravo, E!, ESPN, Fox News, FX, MSNBC, National Geographic Channel and USA Network. People will also have the option of paying an extra fee for Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus. And YouTube is bundling in the original shows it has produced exclusively for its existing YouTube Red subscription service.

40 total TV networks (Showtime is an add-on)

— Tim Peterson (@petersontee) February 28, 2017

Using YouTube TV, people will be able to watch live TV, check out an on-demand library of past seasons and record shows to watch later. People can only view recorded shows by streaming them through an internet or cellular connect; they will not be able to download them to watch offline, like they can on Netflix. There is no limit to how many shows people can record simultaneously, and setting a recording from YouTube’s mobile app won’t use the phone’s data or its storage, said YouTube chief product officer Neal Mohan. YouTube will keep an account’s recorded shows for up to 9 months.

In addition to the subscription revenue, YouTube will also be able to reap ad revenue from YouTube TV. While YouTube hasn’t yet pitched advertisers specifically on YouTube TV inventory, YouTube will “have the opportunity to sell some ads” appearing within YouTube TV’s shows, said Mohan. YouTube’s chief business officer Robert Kyncl likened YouTube TV ad sales to how Comcast sells some of the ads running on its cable TV service alongside the ads sold by the TV networks themselves. Mohan said that YouTube plans to sell ads for YouTube TV in all the same ways in which it currently sells ads for YouTube proper, including through the advertising auction system.

YouTube TV isn’t so different from YouTube proper, aside from a new “Live” tab cataloging shows currently airing. A home feed will list shows and categories that people might want to check out, like the videos YouTube features in its main app’s feed. People will be able to search for shows by title and keywords like the name of a sports team or a content category. YouTube TV will also work with Google’s Chromecast so that people can stream a live or recorded show from their phone to their TV. And people will be able to watch regular YouTube videos, in addition to the TV shows and YouTube Red original programs, on YouTube TV.

This isn’t YouTube’s first subscription service. In October 2015 YouTube rolled out YouTube Red that has people pay $9.99 a month to watch all YouTube videos without ads, gain access to some exclusive original shows and download videos to watch offline; YouTube Red will remain a separate service from YouTube TV, with only the YouTube Red original shows carrying over. And a year before that, it introduced YouTube Music Key, a precursor to YouTube Red focused on YouTube’s music-related videos.

About The Author

Tim Peterson, Third Door Media’s Social Media Reporter, has been covering the digital marketing industry since 2011. He has reported for Advertising Age, Adweek and Direct Marketing News. A born-and-raised Angeleno who graduated from New York University, he currently lives in Los Angeles. He has broken stories on Snapchat’s ad plans, Hulu founding CEO Jason Kilar’s attempt to take on YouTube and the assemblage of Amazon’s ad-tech stack; analyzed YouTube’s programming strategy, Facebook’s ad-tech ambitions and ad blocking’s rise; and documented digital video’s biggest annual event VidCon, BuzzFeed’s branded video production process and Snapchat Discover’s ad load six months after launch. He has also developed tools to monitor brands’ early adoption of live-streaming apps, compare Yahoo’s and Google’s search designs and examine the NFL’s YouTube and Facebook video strategies.


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