- Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch
- YouTube TV, the company’s live-TV service, is getting its first major test as it debuts on Roku and Apple TV devices.
- YouTube TV lags behind competitors like Sling TV, DirecTV Now, and Hulu with Live TV in subscribers.
- YouTube TV costs $35 a month, which the company says is “less than half the average cost of cable.”
YouTube is putting its live-TV streaming service in front of millions of potential viewers this week in the product’s first major test – just days before the Super Bowl, no less.
Last year, YouTube launched YouTube TV, giving people in a few select markets the option to watch live TV beyond the content it already livestreams. And at $35 a month, YouTube TV is “less than half the average cost of cable” the company says.
Subscribers can store an unlimited amount of recorded content via a cloud DVR, meaning no equipment fees. They could also access most network content worth watching in real time – like sports, award shows, and shows that Twitter spoils – on some smart TVs, mobile devices, and laptops, then switch to a platform like Roku or Apple TV to stream any on-demand content from those devices.
But on Thursday, YouTube TV debuted on Apple TV devices and some Roku devices.
More eyes will mean more scrutiny of the performance of YouTube’s live-TV service, and there will probably be bugs in the new software as well. Observers are likely to watch how YouTube responds to customers early in the rollout and whether it can avoid technical difficulties that plagued competitors like Sling TV and DirecTV Now.
YouTube TV has gained 300,000 subscribers in 83 markets since it launched, CNBC’s Alex Sherman reported last month.
But since cord-cutting isn’t new and many consumers have already invested in the hardware and software to watch TV online rather than through traditional pay-TV packages, YouTube TV lags far behind older services like Sling TV and DirecTV Now, which have subscriber bases in the millions.
There’s still a hunt to find the product that makes the experience more seamless. Hulu with Live TV has racked up 450,000 subscribers since it launched in April, suggesting people might want to be able to access streaming and cable content in the same place. It’s slightly more expensive than YouTube TV, though, at $40 a month on top of the $8 that Hulu subscribers pay.
By launching on Roku and Apple TV devices, YouTube TV will have the chance to gain numerous new users – depending on its performance relative to other streaming live-TV options for cord cutters.