YouTube is going to start selling TV today. At least to people who live in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and two other cities.
This is the 50-plus channels, $35-a-month service YouTube announced in February. The one major update since then: It will be adding channels from AMC Networks, including BBC America and IFC.
That makes AMC the only pure-play cable programmer in the bundle; the rest of the networks in the package are either broadcasters (CBS) or owned by broadcasters (ABC/Disney’s ESPN).
I haven’t played with YouTube TV yet, though it has a 30-day free trial, so I’ll noodle around with it over the next few days.
I assume, since the people who work at YouTube and Google are smart, it will be a pretty slick piece of software.
I also assume that it will work, more or less, like the other internet TV systems that have launched in the past couple years: It’s an updated interface on top of a fairly traditional bundle of TV channels.
Can you hear the ennui in my typing? It’s partly because I’m sick. (Sorry for the overshare!) But it’s also because these internet TV packages, which seemed ground-breaking and/or impossible just a few years ago, now seem pretty ho-hum. They’re all basically delivering the same thing, with slight tweaks for pricing and channel lineups.
And it’s really because I have yet to get the sense that regular people actually want this stuff.
Some people do: Sling et al have likely rounded up at least one million subscribers, which isn’t nothing.
But the more I see of these packages, the more I see the traditional TV business trying to stave off cord-cutting/cord-nevering by selling the same packages people aren’t buying already, with new wrappers.
I know why the TV Industrial Complex wants these things: They think they can sell people on the notion of flexibility and a slight cost savings (remember that when you pay $35 for YouTube TV, you still need to pay another $50 or more for broadband, likely delivered by Comcast*, Charter or some other pay TV company you say you hate) without fundamentally disrupting their business.
Which doesn’t mean I don’t want these folks to try. I’m certainly up for new ways to access traditional TV. (Hulu, which is launching its own pay TV bundle this spring, has done away with the standard cable TV grid, which sounds like a nothingburger unless you’re an old like me and are used to finding TV that way.)
And at a bare minimum, the fact that internet TV isn’t geographically constrained, like traditional pay TV is, is worth applauding.
It means that instead of a choice of one or two TV providers, you now have a half-dozen or more, which means that they will gradually be forced to distinguish themselves based on price and selection.
But it’s not mind-blowing. So forgive me if I’m not doing cartwheels about this stuff. Also, does anyone have any green tea?
*Comcast’s NBCUniversal is an investor in Vox Media, which owns this site.