At the end of February, Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. announced its new live-TV streaming platform, YouTube TV. Now, for a monthly fee, viewers can take advantage of live content from a number of US networks and channels, plus record their favourite shows on a cloud-based DVR. We take a look at how it works and whether it will come to the UK.
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Is YouTube TV just another Netflix rival?
While it might seem like another streaming service to join the ranks of Netflix, Now TV, Amazon, and others, YouTube TV is a little different. Rather than complete series being available on-demand, viewers of the new service watch live TV broadcasts from some of the major US networks. These include Disney, Fox, SyFy, ESPN, FX, ABC, and several others. Notably the really big hitters such as HBO - home of Game of Thrones - are not yet available on the service, although YouTube TV representatives confirmed that negotiations were ongoing with a number of networks.
There will be some on-demand content available, as YouTube TV will also include the original series created for the YouTube Red subscription service.
Isn’t live TV a bit dated now?
Well, yes it is, but plenty of people still tune in to see things as they happen, rather than gorge themselves on box-sets on demand. Sports is a prime example of when you want to watch live, and the ESPN channels on YouTube TV will satiate fans' hunger. Then of course there are shows such as The Voice and X Factor which rely on audiences to call in and vote for their favourite acts.
YouTube TV does have an ace up its sleeve though in the form of an unlimited cloud DVR on which subscribers can record as many shows as they like (even if they are all broadcast at the same time on multiple channels). This means it should be possible to build up an online library that can be watched in a Netflix fashion. The programmes can be stored for a maximum of nine months before they are automatically deleted by the service.
Essentially YouTube TV is a cheaper alternative to US cable TV, offering a slice of live action without the long term subscriptions and dedicated hardware requirements.
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How much does YouTube TV cost and when will it launch?
YouTube TV has a flat fee of $35 per month for which you get six individual accounts to distribute among your family members and friends. Unlike YouTube Red though you’ll still see ads between, and presumably during, shows.
YouTube TV is due to launch in the next few months, but initially the service will only be available in the US. There are plans to extend the reach to other countries and we'll update this article when more details become available.
Will YouTube TV come to the UK?
This is a good question. YouTube Red launched at the end of 2015 and has still to make it to these shores. In theory that is a far easier service to offer around the world as YouTube owns the rights to all the content. With the new YouTube TV there is bound to be territorial copyright negotiations that slow things down. If the service intends to offer the US based channels in the UK then it will be kind of pointless to do it as a live TV channel, mainly due to the time difference which would mean most of the top shows airing in the middle of the night.
With most UK based TV networks already available online through the likes of iPlayer, ITV Player, and others, there only remains the handful of options such as Sky, Virgin, and BT Sport which would be considered eligible for a subscription service. As they all offer their own online portals and pay walls it would seem an odd move to surrender their autonomy in order to join the YouTube TV revolution.
So, it’s very much a wait and see situation with YouTube TV in the UK. If the service unveils killer deals with content creators then it might have a chance to break into the aggressively fought TV streaming market. But with so much quality content already available on demand from Netflix, Amazon, and Now TV, not to mention the plethora of free catchup TV from the national stations, it’s hard to see the need for another live TV service.