YouTube TV Lands in Dallas, But Can It Loosen Cable's Chokehold?

YouTube TV launched its television streaming service last week in 10 new markets, including Dallas. Customers can pay a monthly fee for access to several local and cable channels that they can watch on different devices.EXPAND
YouTube TV launched its television streaming service last week in 10 new markets, including Dallas. Customers can pay a monthly fee for access to several local and cable channels that they can watch on different devices.
Screenshot by Danny Gallagher
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"Cutting the cord" has become a point of pride for some TV watchers. Streaming services like Netflix, SlingTV and Hulu have challenged cable's longtime monopoly, offering both traditional and original TV programming and the ability to access it from a variety of devices, all for low monthly subscription fees.

Last week, a new digital TV competitor entered the fray. Google announced the launch of YouTube TV in 10 new markets, including Dallas, according to the official YouTube blog.

The new cord-cutting TV service gives customers some familiar amenities and features, as well as some new ones. YouTube TV's basic subscription package is $35 a month and offers 48 channels and six accounts per household. YouTube TV also offers a cloud-based DVR system for recording programs with unlimited storage space, according to the YouTube TV website.

The basic package includes local channels for CBS, Fox, NBC, ABC and The CW, plus  AMC, USA, FX, FXX, E!, Bravo, Fox News Channel, MSNBC, ESPN and Fox Sports. The basic package also gives you access to original YouTube programming created by and starring internet celebrities such as Rhett & Link, CollegeHumor and Game Grumps.

Before, these programs were only available through the YouTube Red digital streaming channel. Subscribers can also get Showtime and Fox Soccer for an additional monthly fee.

Some channels are noticeably absent from YouTube TV's channel listings. CNN, HBO, and PBS, as well as their local affiliates, are just a few not participating.

Bart Weiss, a film professor at the University of Texas at Arlington and president of the Video Association of Dallas, reviewed YouTube TV and says he noticed the absence of access to PBS right away because he was working at KERA studios at the time.

"It's like everything else is there. Why not PBS?" Weiss asked. "I don't know if PBS is not negotiating with them, or my gut feeling is that the target for this is not necessarily the key target demographic for PBS, which is generally an older demographic."

Weiss thinks YouTube is targeting young cord-cutters with its digital TV service.

"The whole thing about this YouTube service is that it's clearly aimed at people who are very, very comfortable with looking at things on YouTube and the idea of extending their YouTube experience through a television experience, particularly one with an unlimited amount of DVR space," Weiss says. "It totally makes sense. I don't think that someone like, say, me, a 64-year-old, is the target audience for this."

However, the inclusion of a DVR with an unlimited amount of memory may prove attractive to a wide range of people who have grown tired of deleting shows to make room for new recordings. And YouTube's emphasis on sports programming means it's likely to be successful in cities like Dallas that have large numbers of diehard sports fans.

"The keys are sports, which are in here with ESPN, particularly when we get to football season. And because you have so much DVR space, people can DVR every football game and go back and watch whatever they want," Weiss says. "That's going to be tempting to a lot of people."

The real question is whether YouTube TV will be able to attract cable customers away from AT&T, Verizon and Spectrum (formerly Time Warner Cable). Even as more digital streaming services have come on the market, the cost of cable has not budged.

"If they start seeing a lot of people dropping their cable to go to YouTube, they're going to have to be more competitive in their pricing," Weiss says. "I think this has the potential for significant disruption in this marketplace, but I don't know that it will. I don't know how aggressively it's going to be marketed."

The difference between YouTube TV and other streaming services that have tried to compete with the cable companies is the backing of Google, which can afford to take risks and absorb any early losses.

Weiss says Google could be looking ahead toward more long-term and sustainable gains once YouTube TV finds its footing in Dallas, and that should scare the likes of AT&T and Spectrum.

"If you think about it, what company is doing this? It's Google," Weiss says. "Who has more money to put into marketing or campaigning, and also, who else wouldn't mind if it didn't really make money in the beginning and paid off later? This has the potential to be another giant technology like what Apple did with music and the iTunes store. That's what I think Google is hoping to do with television, and nobody's really conquered television in that way."

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