Google just joined the “skinny bundle” TV war with YouTube TV, a paid subscription service that streams a slew of premium broadcast and cable networks to your mobile device, tablet, computer, and anything with Chromecast.
Just $35 a month gets you six accounts and access to live TV from more than 40 providers including the big broadcast networks, ESPN, regional sports networks and dozens of popular cable networks. Subscriptions include cloud DVR with unlimited storage, AI-powered search and personalization, and access to YouTube Red programming. YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki calls it the evolution of television, and a bid to “give the younger generation the content that they love with the flexibility they expect.”
So-called skinny bundles include only those channels you really want, at a price that is cheaper than traditional cable. They also bring the world one step closer to the day when you can watch what you want, when you want, when you want, on the device you want. YouTube TV joins a growing wave of services, including Dish’s Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, and AT&T’s new DirectTV Now, with a similar web TV offering from Hulu expected soon. And like these other options, unfortunately, YouTube still has some holes with its offering.
YouTube says it spent two years working on this, and reportedly landed its first partner in October when CBS signed on for the skinny bundle. Other big networks like ABC, NBC, Fox, are on board, but several premium channels, like MTV and CNN, aren’t. You can add content like Showtime and soccer for an added fee, but some content comes with restrictions. If you’re a pro football fan, for example, you’ll have to watch games on your TV or computer because the NFL’s deal with Verizon made it off-limits to your mobile device. And no matter what you watch or what you watch it on, you may see ads—Google, being Google, and its network partners can sell ads on YouTube TV to bring in additional revenue.
The company won’t say when the service launches, but says you can expect it in the US in the “coming weeks and months.”
Still, YouTube TV shows how far the company has come since its founding in 2005, when it was little more than a place for people to share homemade video clips. Today YouTube is the biggest online destination for video, with people watching more than 1 billion hours of video each day. And if there’s one thing the internet’s biggest video company getting into this space proves, it’s that such a la carte viewing is the inevitable future of television.