YouTube Jacks Live TV Streaming Prices 30%, As Streaming Sector Starts To Resemble Good Old Cable
from the meet-the-new-boss... dept
There’s absolutely no doubt that the streaming TV revolution has, by and large, been a positive thing. Thanks to a ridiculous surge in streaming TV competitors, consumers now have far more options than they’ve ever had before, resulting not only in lower prices and more flexibility in TV options, but customer service that far surpasses the clumsy trash fire that is Comcast customer service.
But all is not well in paradise. Those laboring under the illusion that this competition would magically rid the sector of its worst impulses will likely soon be broken of this notion, as YouTube this week announced it would be raising prices for its streaming TV service some thirty percent ($15 to $65 a month). Much like traditional cable TV vendors have done for years, YouTube blames the hikes on the high cost of programming, and innovative improvements to the platform:
“We don?t take these decisions lightly, and realize how hard this is for our members. That said, this new price reflects the rising cost of content and we also believe it reflects the complete value of YouTube TV, from our breadth of content to the features that are changing how we watch live TV. YouTube TV is the only streaming service that includes a DVR with unlimited storage space, plus 6 accounts per household each with its own unique recommendations, and 3 concurrent streams. It’s all included in the base cost of YouTube TV, with no contract and no hidden fees.”
This of course wasn’t surprising. The same broadcasters that kept jacking up prices on traditional cable TV providers (one and the same when talking about AT&T/TimeWarner/HBO or Comcast/NBC/Universal), are now doing the same thing to streaming TV providers. In short, it’s a never ending quest to extract higher and higher rates for the same programming at a moment when consumers have made it abundantly clear they’re sick of paying an arm and a leg to watch ad-laden, traditional TV (not to mention the whole pandemic and resulting financial toll thing).
It’s a greedy downward spiral that even Wall Street analysts have been warning for years isn’t sustainable. Said greed recently resulted in record losses in the traditional cable TV sector, as users, angered by relentless price hikes, headed for the exits. Granted with the same price hikes now hitting streaming TV providers (especially those offering live broadcasts), these users (especially younger ones) are more likely than ever to avoid the concept of traditional TV entirely and just go watch free YouTube, TikTok, or (gasp) read a book.
The sector has already inadvertently been driving some users to piracy thanks to its obsession with exclusives. With users now forced to hunt and peck through a rotating crop of paywalled services to find their favorite content (Star Trek on CBS All Access, Star Wars on Disney+, Friends only on Comcast!, etc.) many users had already been reverting to piracy (or OTA broadcasts) for simplicity and cost’s sake. Raising prices hand over fist isn’t likely to help that, and there’s the potential here to undermine all of the work put into convincing content owners to make content easier to access over the last two decades.
Other ugly habits of traditional television have also been slowly meandering over to the streaming TV space. The Roku, Amazon, and AT&T standoff, for example, has resulted in Roku and Amazon hardware users being unable to access AT&T’s streaming platforms as they bicker over rates, ensuring that the annoying and ugly content blackouts and retransmission feuds make their way to streaming. A lot of these standoffs will inevitably get worse (especially given the feckless FCC authority and death of net neutrality).
Again, streaming TV right now is a huge step up from traditional cable, the old cable box, bloated cable channel bundles, and sky high prices. But there’s still plenty of warning signs that as the sector grows, it’s going to forget many of the important lessons of its past.