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YouTube TV An Epic Fail Before It Even Launches: Bad Value, Ad-Littered DVR

Phillip Dampier March 1, 2017 Audio, Competition, Consumer News, Editorial & Site News, Online Video 10 Comments

Google’s forthcoming online TV streaming service will cost too much for too little and includes a cloud-based DVR that will replace many of your recordings with unskippable-ad-laced alternatives.

YouTube TV was previewed for reporters Tuesday, despite the fact it won’t debut until late spring or early summer, with a lineup of 40 channels for $35 a month. The “skinny bundle” from Google has managed to put together a very incomplete lineup of major cable networks and for most of the country, on-demand-only access of network shows about a day after they air.

YouTube TV Tentative Lineup

  • Disney: ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN31, ESPNU, ESPNews, SEC Network, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform
  • NBCUniversal: NBC, Telemundo, Bravo, Chiller, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, MSNBC, NBC Universo2, NBCSN, Oxygen, Sprout, SyFy, Universal HD, USA. In some regions: Comcast Regional Sports Networks, NECN (New England Cable News)
  • CBS: CBS, The CW, CBS Sports Network
  • Fox: FOX, FS1 (Fox Sports 1), FS2 (Fox Sports 2), BTN (Big Ten Network), FX, FXX, FXM, Nat Geo, Nat Geo Wild, Fox News, Fox Business. In some regions: Fox Regional Sports Networks
  • The Weather Channel: Local Now (rolling weather forecasts)
  • YouTube TV members can also add Showtime for $11 a month and Fox Soccer Plus for $15 a month.
  • Availability of local TV/live network streaming limited to residents of New York, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.

Prospective customers will have to tough it out with no access to AMC, HBO, MTV, Comedy Central, Nickelodeon, MTV/VH1, CNN, Cartoon Network, Discovery, TBS, TNT, PBS, Food Network, and HGTV among many other missing networks.

One potentially interesting feature – an unlimited cloud-based DVR service, is rendered almost unusable with the imposition of prioritized video-on-demand. In short, this means that once a video-on-demand version of the show you recorded on your DVR becomes available, you can no longer access your recording. Your only option is to watch the ad-heavy, on-demand version with advertising you cannot skip. In most cases, that will give customers about 12-24 hours to watch their DVR recordings before they become inaccessible, at least until the on-demand version is removed.


That’s a challenging proposition when consumers have other choices including AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Sling TV, and PlayStation Vue. The premise of YouTube TV, like many others, is to appeal to cord cutters and cable-nevers — especially millennials.

“There’s no question millennials love great TV content,” said YouTube chief executive Susan Wojcicki. “But what we’ve seen is they don’t want to watch it in the traditional setting.”

What Wojcicki ignores is the fact millennials prefer to watch their shows on-demand. Relying on live television as the primary source of scripted television shows is already inconvenient and unnecessary. The viewing experience is increasingly an individual one, catering to the whims of a single viewer watching on a tablet, smartphone, or connected TV. Of all the websites on the internet, YouTube should already understand the trend towards individualized viewing better than most.

Just as important, YouTube TV is a lousy deal. Hulu subscribers can binge watch all the series they want with no ads for $11.99 a month. YouTube TV will charge nearly three times the price and force customers to sit through up to 18 minutes of ads an hour. Hulu doesn’t require customers to use Google’s Chromecast as the only stream-to-TV option either. A premium YouTube Red subscription also won’t get you a better deal or fewer ads. You may already pay to watch YouTube commercial free but now you will pay more to watch YouTube TV filled with ads.

Analyst Michael Nathanson said Google’s real goal here is to get into the television advertising market. Because customers will be held captive by a disabled fast-forward button, they will see Google-targeted ads playing in ad slots normally reserved for use by local cable operators. Getting a lot of people to watch those ads means YouTube TV will at least be generous about something. A subscription will include access for six accounts with separate login information, but only three users can watch simultaneously, if they bother.

Currently there are 10 comments on this Article:

  1. David says:

    Well they are the first to really capture all the broadcast chan, but the service has massive gaping holes in it for LOTS of money. The issue is that I think broadcasters smartly hobbled each service (sling, DTV, Vue, Youtube) in some unique way so that they are close to being good, but not close enough for wholesale cord cutting.

    And more importantly this is just repackaging of what a cable subscription is today with less features, so this is nothing transformational, and until one can selectively choose sports or get rid of ESPN these packaged are going to be grossly overpriced.

    The whole DVR -> VOD is a game stopper, because I refuse to ever watch ads again unless I go to hell in the afterlife. Youtube red/music to me is a pleasure because the kids do tons of youtube and I am happy to know they aren’t being bombarded by ads littering their minds.

    I’m not into stealing, but I go over to millenials houses (where they are targeting) and they almost ALL have fire sticks w/ Kodi on them and I ask why. They almost all say they would pay, but they want the apps, content when they want, and no commercials. Nobody said they are into ripping off and not paying for service.

    Put simply people don’t want hobbled service, they want content ubiquitous and the OPTION to pay for timeshifted or ad-free, all the rest of the blabber is there to mask the whole ad market which btw is terribly inefficient in its own right.

    Ads = Fail

  2. Lee says:

    Pay for a machine to record shows that I can not control to avoid commercials. I think not. I can think of where they can put that recorder and I do not care if it does not fit.

  3. JayS says:

    For any of these streaming services to truly succeed, fixed 5G will have to be viable. Cable operators will simply jack-up the price of Internet service and lower the price of their own traditional cableTv/DVR/streaming functionality, until there are more internet service provider alternatives.

    The consumer’s pocketbook will win when Verizon, Sprint, Tmobile & ATT are all providing fixed 5G, in addition to the two ‘Wired’ providers that you likely have in your suburban/urban neighborhood.

  4. Limboaz says:

    Yeah, the service is pretty much garbage. There is talk that they will have a lot of broadcast TV networks, which might be good for cord-cutters who live out in the sticks. Other than that, it’s just an overpriced skinny bundle, riddled with advertising (exactly what millennials DON’T want).

  5. Paul Houle says:

    I’m skeptical about the “big four” networks, particularly, there is no “ABC” feed for consumers, there is just your local ABC affiliate station, which has an exclusive contract with ABC to show ABC shows in your city. Thus, your cable company has to negotiate with the owner of the ABC affiliate, not ABC.

    Back in the old days, the TV stations were afraid they’d be shut out from cable TV or that they would be charged by the cable TV companies for the privilege of being on cable, so they lobbied the FCC to require cable companies to carry their signal for free. Eventually they realized they had a product that had value, and that consumers want to watch network TV, so they’ve been charging cable companies to carry their channels, and this is an increasing revenue source.

    (This is not just a rent-seeking festival, there is some justification for the way the system works, because as it is, network affiliates produce locally originated content such as local news, and there has always been a lot of fear that the TV industry would be 100% located in Los Angeles and New York if there wasn’t pressure for it to be otherwise.)

    Anyhow, for all of the other streaming services, getting network TV is contingent with your affiliate being with the program, usually that is the case in the biggest cities, but it probably isn’t the case if you are further out.

    As for @Limboaz, TV in the digital age turned out to have better coverage, in most cases, then in the analog age. I am about 50 miles from Syracuse NY and I can get one station with an indoor antenna, and I get quite a bit with an outdoor antenna mounted on the edge of my roof at a cost of less than $100. I get PBS, NBC, Fox, and some minor stations. I am missing ABC and CBS — I think I could get those from Syracuse with a $200 antenna&amplifier on top of the roof.

    One “audiophile” site was making a big deal about the streaming availability of the superbowl, but I can’t see how the kind of people who have a 4K TV and who have fights with their spouse about the surround sound system in the living room can tolerate the reduced quality when it is so easy to get OTA.

  6. Janey says:

    Google will still manage to gain customers, because they will shove this service in users faces like YouTube Red and all the other Google Services. It’ll show up first on Google searches for TV shows, just like they show Google services first.

    example: on my iPhone. i search google for an address. No way to open that in Maps. It only wants to open in Google Maps, and offers me the Google Maps app. They have even disallowed copy/paste from Safari which I find to be reprehensible behavior on Google’s part.
    They do the same thing with Youtube. Look for a song? Youtube is the first result. Cannot open in Apple Music.
    Same with food…The Google Plus reviews are above everything else. Google wants everyone in the Google universe and nowhere else.

    Watch – within a couple months, they’ll either lower the price or force it on to Youtube Red somehow.

    Author is right. Google wants to get in that advertising market badly.

  7. Jo says:

    Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, Philadelphia & San Francisco Bay Area
    This is it? it’s just like google fiber.. a failure.

    • BobInIllinois says:

      Jo, FYI on this.

      YouTube wanted to get this streaming service up fast. The 5 big US cities that you listed all have network tv stations owned and operated by those very same networks. This makes it much quicker legally to deal with. Most cities in the US have network tv stations owned by companies other than those very same networks. Those broadcasters would drag their feet as they are afraid to set any kind of precedent on how much to charge You Tube.

      Anyway, to me, the bad thing about this is that the 5 big cities already tend to have many more TV options, whether it’s cable, satellite, microwave, internet streaming, or whatever. The public that really needs more options live in the rural US.

  8. Josh says:

    Wow, I just found yet another problem with YouTube TV.

    For the heck of it I went through the sign up process to get my email registered for when it’s available in my area…

    And I find out that my Google account won’t work with it.

    Apparently anyone with a pre-Google+ YouTube account is considered this nonsensical “brand” account, which inexplicably prevents you from signing up for YouTube TV.

    YouTube and Google+ are a confusing, unwanted mess, but I’m certainly not a “brand”, and certainly never signed up like that. I’m also never going to get rid of my YouTube account just so I can sign up.

    I’d have to (if it lets me) create a separate Google account for it, which is ridiculous.

  9. Keith says:

    I concur…First, the programs available are junk and riddled with ads. Most subscribers might find 1-3 channels that they would watch but for most, Google TV is several redundant programs that offer very little value and interest. The $35 price tag is steep and like other Google products comes with ZERO support.

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