01 Mar 2017

YouTube unveils its live TV service

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YouTube Live: coming to a device near you YouTube Live: coming to a device near you YouTube

Finally, after what seems like years of speculation, YouTube has announced that it’s going to start streaming live TV channels, starting with a limited rollout of a so-called ‘skinny bundle’ in major markets in the USA.

While Apple has consistently flubbed the ball when it comes to launching its own live TV service, YouTube’s announcement of its own package is going to send some extremely large shockwaves through a television industry already feeling beleaguered by the rise of online television and OTT (Over The Top) services that bypass the traditional broadcasting routes to viewers.

Called YouTube TV, it’s not an all-singing and all-dancing service, but that’s the point. It’s a ‘skinny’ bundle: users pay $35 a month and get 35 or so ‘cable’ channels, along with the four major US networks — ABC, CBS, FOX, and NBC. What’s more, that price covers six accounts, so an entire family can easily dip in to the service (although only three are going to be able to do so at the same time).

That also means that the Google-owned service can serve up a personalised experience to all six users. Plus, of course, collect some interesting granular data about their viewing habits.

There is no date for the launch yet beyond it rolling out in the next few months, but there are some interesting details. First, it promises to give each user a cloud-based DVR with no storage limits in terms of size, though there is a nine-month time limit on how long it will keep it. Second, it has some promising integrations with Google’s search engines, allowing users to search for themes such as time-travel. Whether this goes so far as to emulate Netflix’ infamous micro-tagging of content will remain to be seen.

There are holes, of course. There is no Turner Broadcasting, Discovery, nor Time Warner content available at launch, and while Showtime is available as an optional add-on, HBO is not. It is also restricting itself to the major markets where it’s signed deals to include live feeds from local broadcasters, such as LA and New York.

But given the impact cord-cutting has had on the US market — and almost 25% of US households and 40% of the key Millennial demographic seem to be perfectly happy living without pay-TV reception nowadays — and the growing willingness of consumers to jump from one service to the next and even stack them on top of each other, it’s a launch with some significance.

The day before, YouTube announced that people were watching a billion hours of content from its servers every single day. It seems that that is not yet enough for the company.


Andy Stout

Andy has spent over two decades writing about all aspects of the broadcast and film industries for a variety of high-profile industry publications on both sides of the Atlantic. During that time the industry has moved from 4:3 SD to 16:9 SD to HD and now on to 4K HDR. He's getting kind of curious to see where it goes next.

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