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Meet YouTube TV: Google’s Live TV Subscription Service

Tom Huddleston, Jr.
It offers over 40 networks and unlimited DVR storage.

YouTube is officially jumping into the live-streaming television fray with a new subscription service called YouTube TV.

The Google-owned streaming video company previewed YouTube TV during a press event held at YouTube’s Los Angeles facility (and live-streamed to press in New York City and San Francisco) on Tuesday afternoon. Prior to the announcement, YouTube boasted that the event would “showcase a new way to experience the TV content you love.”

The long-anticipated new service will offer live television content from more than 40 TV networks--including all four of the major broadcast networks as well as a number of cable channels--for a monthly fee of $35. The company did not announce a specific release date for YouTube TV, saying only that the service will be available “soon in the largest U.S. markets” before expanding coverage to the rest of the country. (You can sign up on YouTube’s website to get an alert when the service is available where you live.)

At the press event, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki discussed consumers’ changing TV viewing habits, especially among millennial viewers. “Younger generations want to consume TV the way that they're used to watching TV online, live and on-demand,” Wojcicki said.

YouTube has long been rumored to be developing a live-TV streaming subscription service that was expected to debut sometime this year. The new service, which was previously called “Unplugged,” signals YouTube’s plans to appeal to cord-cutters who are moving away from traditional cable television bundles, while also competing with similar live-TV streaming offerings from the likes of Dish Network’s Sling TV, Sony’s Playstation Vue, and AT&T’s DirecTV Now. And Hulu--which is owned jointly by media giants and network owners , , Walt , and 21st Century Fox--has its own forthcoming live-TV streaming service that is also expected to launch sometime this year.

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Like its streaming rivals, YouTube TV offers a limited selection of television channels at a price that’s cheaper than a cable subscription.

Google signed a deal with in the fall to provide content for YouTube’s live TV service, marking its first major network partnership. At the launch event on Tuesday, YouTube announced additional partnerships with the other major broadcast networks (ABC, Fox, and NBC). YouTube TV will feature live shows and events from those networks as well as cable channels such as ESPN, FX, USA, E!, Bravo, and multiple cable news channels (CNBC, Fox News, MSNBC). For additional fees, subscribers can also add premium cable channels Showtime or Fox Soccer Plus. YouTube TV is also working with local TV stations and regional sports networks across the U.S. to provide users with local TV news, weather, and sports.

YouTube TV’s lineup of channels does not currently include any Time Warner-owned networks (such as CNN and TNT). When asked if a partnership deal with Time Warner is forthcoming, YouTube chief business officer Robert Kyncl said the company is in talks with more potential partners.

The monthly fee gives subscribers access to six YouTube TV accounts that can be shared. Each account gets its own viewer profile (which will track what you watch to offer tailored recommendations) as well as separate cloud-based DVRs with unlimited storage. YouTube’s chief product officer, Neal Mohan, said the six separate accounts are meant to be housed under the same roof. “The expectation is that those are people who are living together,” he said.

YouTube already has another subscription streaming service: YouTube Red, which launched in 2015 and allows subscribers to stream original programming from the company’s portfolio of digital creators for $9.99 per month. The company said that a YouTube TV subscription will also give customers access to all of the original content available on YouTube Red.

The official launch of YouTube TV means that Hulu will likely be the next streaming platform to launch its own live TV subscription service. Hulu’s competing service is expected to be priced similarly to YouTube TV and other rivals. So far, Hulu has signed content deals with CBS as well as three of its network parent companies (Disney, Fox, and Time Warner), and is said to be in talks with Comcast’s NBCUniversal.

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