Another country heard from, as Robert DeNiro might say. Yesterday YouTube announced YouTube TV, which is designed to compete in the same space as DIRECTV NOW and Sling TV, essentially providing live TV to computers, mobile devices and streaming boxes at a fixed price.
In this case, the details we have lead me to thinking this is a lower-cost service. You’re looking at local channels from some of the major networks, plus affiliated cable channels. In other words, you’ll get NBC, MSNBC, Bravo, etc., as well as ABC and the ESPN and Disney channels, plus Fox channels, etc. You don’t get the large selection of DIRECTV NOW, but what you do get is 3 locations to stream from instead of DIRECTV NOW’s two, and you get a real cloud-based DVR service where you can skip the ads. That’s something none of the other providers are offering at any price.
Here’s the over/under:
It should launch strong, where it launches.
Unlike DIRECTV and DISH, YouTube isn’t building a streaming backbone from scratch. They’ve got all of Google’s resources to work from, so don’t expect any hiccups like we saw at the launch of Sling TV or DIRECTV NOW. On the other hand, we don’t know how many markets will be available at launch so it could be a while before it lands in your hometown unless your city ends in “York” or “Angeles.”
DVR service is great but is it needed?
A lot of people are pushing for some sort of DVR service that goes beyond simply pausing live TV, but with Hulu, DIRECTV’s own Fullscreen service, and content provider web sites, is it really needed? The only thing to DVR would be stuff on local channels that isn’t broadcast nationally. Of course, you’ll be able to save on a Hulu or Fullscreen subscription, but then you’re losing out on the other content you’ll get from those services.
Where’s the app support?
Right now, that’s a big question. Will YouTubeTV launch with support for AppleTV, Roku, and the major smart TV platforms? DIRECTV NOW’s no-Roku launch might have cost some customers, and if you’re looking for a TV replacement, it’s got to work on a TV. Streaming to phones only is great for millennials but there are other markets to consider. There’s been no announcement of supported platforms so far.
If you want TV, maybe you want a TV-like experience.
There’s a lot of argument right now about how TV-like the future of TV should be. There are some very high profile folks saying that the idea of live TV and the grid-style guide are just plain obsolete. On the other hand, you close out a large number of potential cord-cutters if you eliminate the TV-like experience including the guide. I’m of the opinion that we’re still about a decade away from people giving up the guide, and when they do they’ll be giving up live TV. So where would that leave a service like YouTubeTV?
Will people think of YouTube when they think of live TV?
So far, YouTube has failed to impress with their paid video service or their music service, and the most likely reason is that people associate YouTube with homemade videos and shortform content. They don’t think of YouTube as a TV provider, and it will be an uphill battle getting people to change their minds. On the other hand, remember that they have Google’s bank account to play with, so they can spend marketing money. It wasn’t too long ago that people thought Amazon just sold books… so perceptions can change.
In the end, I think…
More competition is better for everyone. Of Sling TV, PlayStation Vue, and DIRECTV NOW, it’s DIRECTV that delivers a better experience and a better channel selection, but the service is still experiencing teething pains. The playing field will be a lot more level in the coming months when YouTube TV and Hulu’s planned live TV service launch. With five strong contenders, competition is bound to be fierce and that’s good for everyone. Sling TV is working on DVR service for this year, and DIRECTV NOW is rumored to be working on something as well, most likely something like their current 72-hour rewind service for satellite where they record literally everything on a channel and make it available on demand for three days.
The market for streaming TV is red hot right now and there’s room for everyone to find a niche. I’m not sure who will win but the one thing I can be sure of is that no matter what you want to do, no matter how you want to watch, there is going to be a streaming service for you.