Everyone in our industry who is interested in television as a medium, and how people consume it, has anticipated this launch for some time now. It was well publicized in the press throughout the first half of last year that YouTube TV was coming to the US. So it should not have been a big surprise to many that Google selected ‘America’s pastime’ to promote the launch of their latest offering to the masses in the fall classic. So, during the 2017 World Series, YouTube TV officially launched as the official sponsor of the World Series on FOX, promoting cable free TV, starting with a subscription price of $35/month.
In the US, YouTube TV promotes itself as ‘Cable free’ alternative to consumers, which is ideal for the cord-cutting generation who consume television via the internet on their smart TV, mobile device and tablet. This trend will be embraced by the 35+ early adopter age group as well as other demographics segments, over time.
When we spoke to Google recently, we inquired about what the subscriber receives for $35/month? Surprisingly, the offering is quite robust, with a strong stable of conventional and cable (specialty channels in Canada) offerings. Google also mentioned there is a premium ‘a la carte’ layer offering similar to what Bell, Rogers, Shaw, Telus and Videotron sell to their customers in Canada. For example: HBO, Special Sports Packages and TMN.
In order to be successful in the US, Google worked closely with the major broadcasters to develop revenue sharing models that would benefit the network broadcast affiliates, Google and ultimately their subscribers. Why the affiliates? In the US, network affiliates control the majority of the available network programming time. In Canada, it’s the exact opposite, as the networks control the majority of the inventory, parceling out fewer minutes for the local market stations to sell.
Google’s first big win in the US was signing a deal with Disney, one of the biggest content providers in the US, with holdings that include ABC, A&E, ABC Spark and ESPN. When Disney signed on, it opened the door for Google to sign up the remaining major networks with their content offerings. To date, they still have not negotiated a deal with Turner Broadcasting whose major holdings include: CNN, Headline News, Peachtree (TBS), TNT and TCM. From their perspective, this will happen in time.
To date, Google has signed on 80 markets inclusive of the big three in the US (New York, Los Angeles and Chicago), and are close to expanding the total to 114 with the signing of 34 new markets. From their perspective, the launch has been a success thus far.
When will YouTube TV be available in Canada? Google isn’t sure yet. They are in the process of facilitating discussions with the major broadcast owner groups in Canada. The biggest difference and challenge for Google in Canada will be the broadcast owner groups with the best integrated offerings. There are three, including Bell Media, Corus Media and Rogers Media. All three owners have significant content offerings and all three are cable owners.
The other significant roadblock in Canada supports that all three owner groups own national networks. As we stated above, in the US, they are doing individual market deals working with the local market network affiliates.Therefore in Canada, Google suggests that the business model has to be the right fit for the Canadian broadcasters owners, and they will not do a deal until the model is right.
As media practitioners, YouTube TV is something that we will pay attention to and look for updates to share with our peers and clients. The success Google has realized thus far for the YouTube TV brand in the US supports the idea that the offering is something the corporate world and consumers want.
Carey Lewis, EVP, Director of Strategic Planning