youtube plans for live tv

No, this isn’t drone news. But we’re willing to bet a lot of you will be interested.

YouTube has thrown down a gauntlet before cable providers, announcing plans to roll out a live television service in five US cities. “YouTube TV” will offer viewers a plethora of mainstream content on multiple devices. For $35 a month, up to six different people can have individualized access to a single shared account and stream content to pretty much any device they want. Users will also be able to record unlimited content to the cloud.

For roughly a year, there’d been rumors this service was coming soon. In fact, work has been going on even longer than that as YouTube and its many media content partners figured out all the contractual stuff.

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Today, the company made it official with an announcement to journalists at the company’s Playa Vista headquarters. Chief Business Officer Robert Kyncl said YouTube had partnered with pretty much every major network.

Well, perhaps not every single network – but it’s a very impressive offering out of the gate. YouTube TV includes: ABC, CBS, NBC, FOX, ESPN, MSNBC, FXX, Syfy, Disney, NatGeo, E! and many more. Some premium offerings, like Showtime, will be available for an additional cost ($11/month in the case of ShowTime). Some services, like HBO, are not available at this time.

Nonetheless, YouTube TV is gambling its basic $35/month package will be more than enough for the average viewer.

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For the moment, YouTube plans to launch the service shortly in markets where a live local broadcast feed already exists: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia and San Francisco Bay area. (“With more on the way!” says their FAQ.)

“We decided to create an offering that would give them all of these can’t-miss live moments,” said Kyncl, adding that YouTube TV is in talks with other potential partners.

The home page makes a pretty compelling case for people to consider ditching pricey cable packages. The service includes a “Cloud DVR with no storage limits” – and you can sign up for one month free of charge with the ability to cancel at any point.

Really? *No* storage limits?

“You can record as many programs as you want at the same time, without ever running out of storage space,” says the FAQ. “We’ll even keep each recording for 9 months. Stream from your library anywhere in the U.S.”

(Oh yes: You can record an unlimited number of shows to the cloud DVR simultaneously.)

Unlike Netflix, the new service gives users the ability to stream mainstream live television rather than movies, individual shows, and documentaries. It’s like having a television on your device.

But it is not, at least based on the home page, an “on-demand” service (unless you’ve already recorded a show), so TDC guesses those cloud-based DVRs are going to get quite a workout. As Netflix, Apple TV, Slingbox and others have proven, people want to be able to choose what they want to view and when they want to view it.

But – as has also been proven since the beginning of commerce – people like to save money where and when they can. YouTube TV looks like it could prove a contender for some of the main cable providers.


What is not mentioned here is the data all this streaming could require. Most people do not have unlimited data plans at their disposal, either on home internet or their mobile devices. With six people sharing a single household account, we can envision scenarios where that $35 bargain becomes more expensive than initially envisioned. It will all depend on how much you watch, and where you watch it (data overages on mobile tend to cost more than exceeding a home internet plan limit).

Still, it’s a very innovative model we’re sure will find some traction.

“We feel we’re in a great position to reinvent the way TV works,” said Neal Mohan, YouTube’s Chief Product Officer. 

“No other company in the world has more experience serving high-quality video over the internet, high-def streaming, apps that don’t crash and seamless integration with mobile and the web.”

We’ll be watching!

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