Cable TV companies can be notoriously slow to adapt their business models to the way people are consuming media nowadays. There's a generation that's used to having content on demand and on the go, with services like Netflix and YouTube. In an effort to squeeze live TV into that model and pit itself against the likes of Sling TV, PlayStation Vue and DirecTV Now, Google has announced YouTube TV, a cable-like subscription service that will let viewers in the US to watch live TV on a range of devices, or save episodes to the cloud to watch later.
YouTube TV will stream live TV from over 40 networks, including ABC, CBS, NBC, ESPN, Fox, The Disney Channel and National Geographic, as well as feeding in news and sport from smaller, regional stations, depending on where a viewer is located. The deal also includes access to the content hidden behind the paywall of YouTube Red, the company's own premium video service, and Showtime and Fox Soccer Plus can be thrown in as well, for an extra fee.
It's all viewed through the YouTube TV app for iOS and Android, letting it play on phones, tablets and computers, and it can be streamed to a TV using a Google Chromecast. Content can be watched live, or tagged to record to a "cloud DVR". YouTube says there's no limit on how much can be stored on the service (although shows will be erased after nine months), and multiple streams can be recorded simultaneously. When you do get around to your backlog, it can be watched on any device through the app.
The subscription itself will cost US$35 a month. That's more than three times the price of Netflix, but it's cheaper than what you'd pay for a cable bundle containing that lineup of networks and puts it in a similar ballpark to other live TV streaming services such as Sling TV, PlaySTation Vue and DirecTV Now – although channels on offer and plans obviously vary. A YouTube TV subscription can be canceled at any time, and includes up to six separate profiles, with their own cloud DVR library and recommendations.
Besides "soon", there's no specific word yet on when the service will launch. YouTube says it will be rolled out in certain parts of the US first, but will expand across the country in time. Those interested can sign up to be notified when it's available in their area. Whether this, or a similar lineup, might eventually come to other countries is hard to tell, given the web of international licenses that would need to be untangled.