YouTube TV needs to stand out against itself

Photo courtesy of YouTube TV

Robert Beiler

Associate Opinion Editor

On February 28, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki took the stage at an event at the YouTube Space in Los Angeles to announce the website’s new live TV initiative.

Dubbed YouTube TV, the new service will offer users an extensive package of up to 40 live cable channels (including my favorite, the CW Network) on top of the ever-expanding library of YouTube content. For $35, the service will also include a cloud based DVR storage with unlimited space (stored videos do delete themselves after 9 months though). The account will also be able to have six user profiles and have up to three users streaming at one time.

While Wojcicki didn’t announce a specific release date, the service does have a sign up page for users to get updates on the development. “These two different types of media have evolved along separate, parallel paths,” Wojcicki told Bloomberg News, “They’ve been inching closer and closer. This is the final convergence.”

This new development could be a benefit for the Alphabet owned company. There are a few major forces in the tech industry trying to crack live TV for the next generation at prices above and below YouTube TV. Playstation’s Vue service starts at $30 a month with 45+ channels. Sling TV’s packages starts at $20 for 30 channels.

There is a lot of overlap with the channel offerings. In the blog released alongside YouTube’s announcement, they put a focus on their sports lineup and plans to partner with regional broadcast networks to give viewers access to local TV news and programming.

The major differentiator is going to come from the cloud DVR and the number of profiles offered.

As someone who already has YouTube Red’s family plan service, the major unanswered question lays in the company’s plan regarding ads. For $10 a month, users get all of YouTube’s content ad-free. This jumps up for $15 a month for a family plan of up to five people. By keeping this product separate and not making YouTube TV simply the next tier up, they may be putting themselves at a disadvantage. Live TV might not be enough.

The bigger problem comes from the number of services YouTube now puts out. While they all run off the same Google profile, YouTube has made functionally five different services now. This includes YouTube Music, which YouTube Red grew out of, then YouTube Gaming, YouTube Kids, as well as the basic YouTube app. Each of these caters a different niche, but could grow confusing to the average consumer when looking for the one that gets them the experience they want.

YouTube Red stands out from the rest by its simplistic nature. Viewers pay $10 a month, they get unlimited ad-free YouTube and music while also supporting creators. That last bit is an essential part of why I find the service valuable. There are plenty of ways around ads, but that doesn’t mean people don’t want to support content they love directly.

Overall, YouTube TV hasn’t shown quite enough to get a real taste of where it will sit in the market. If it provides a strong enough incentive, it could add a strong money making arm to YouTube’s growing video empire.