Google seems to aim at the revolutionary change of television. The company has launched its own YouTube TV that will deliver 40-plus channels of entertainment, news and sports to the selected cities for $35 per month.
As almost every innovation at the very start, YouTube TV is still a little wonky. It needs to eliminate some flaws before it qualifies as a full-blown TV substitute. But it is hard to deny a great potential it has to inspire a whole new generation of viewers to actually pay for TV, and advertisers seem eager to give it a shot.
“There are a lot of ‘cord-nevers’—millennials who never sign on for cable,” says Kelly Merryman, YouTube’s vice-president of content partnerships. “They love TV programming. They just don’t love the distribution.”
YouTube is beneficial not only as a brand but as platform and service used by more than one billion people. If marketers won at least a part of this audience, it would be a success. To compare, Sling TV, one of the most popular live internet TV services, has only about a million subscribers. “There’s already this install base of users who have YouTube on every device and app, and every TV,” says Paul Verna, a senior analyst for research firm eMarketer.
The YouTube brand serves as a signifier of people’s viewing habits migrating online. A rare person can admit that he doesn’t watch online videos on YouTube. “YouTube brings the brand in online video (to live internet TV),” says Glenn Hower, a senior digital media analyst with research firm Parks Associates.
YouTube TV will allow watching favorite programs today in New York and tomorrow in Los Angeles with many other cities “coming soon,” according to YouTube. It is hard to say now how many channels you’ll get for your $35 each month, because local availability varies per market. But YouTube TV has the networks ABC, CBS, FOX, NBC, and ESPN among others while some important like CNN or HGTV are missing.
The service is perfect for those who would like to passively dip into TV to find something to watch, from movies to recent TV to original YouTube Red content. It is only a choice of each person if he is ready or not to pay $35 per month on top of all other monthly subscriptions though it is still cheaper than typical $100 cable bill.
YouTube has never revealed subscriber numbers for its $10-per-month YouTube Red service. This ad-free version of the platform was launched nearly two years ago. “It’s hard to get people to pay for stuff they’d already been able to get for free,” Verna says. And here is where YouTube TV wins – it comes with sports, news, and entertainment users would otherwise have to pay a cable company to access.