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.

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Companies: google, youtube

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Comments on “YouTube Jacks Live TV Streaming Prices 30%, As Streaming Sector Starts To Resemble Good Old Cable”

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25 Comments
That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

something something same thing over and over expecting different results…
something something same thing over and over expecting different results…
something something same thing over and over expecting different results…
something something same thing over and over expecting different results…
something something same thing over and over expecting different results…

tom (profile) says:

The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or in this case, repeat.

When cable first came out, it was a affordable way to get a variety of local + new stations without the hassle of having to put an an antenna + rotor(if you were between stations.

Once cable got enough folks hooked and the antennas had come down(sometime due to local laws or HOA rules), cable started jacking up prices.

Streaming is following the same playbook. Low intro price, no or simple controller box, better channel options. Now that enough folks are hooked and have turned in those cable boxes, Streamers are raising prices and in many cases adding in those same high cost channels that folks used to hate in the cable bundles.

If the Streamers keep this up, physical media may make a come back.

Slow Joe Crow (profile) says:

When I canceled cable TV I had to schedule a service call to remove the box. Canceling a streaming service only takes a few clicks. The pain may come sooner, as will discounts. My cable company sends me an offer every few months to bundle TV with my Internet for the same price. Either they are desperate to raise subscriber numbers or my Internet price is a rip off. Either way I have held the line and neither restored cable nor added more streaming services.

DB (profile) says:

Re: Re:

For many years Comcast has been sending me mailings advertising combo packages with TV at a much lower (advertised) price than I’m paying for Internet alone. But I know that the billed amount will be higher and rapidly increase.

The mailed advertising is especially irksome because I get them at least as frequently as the previous mailed bills. Comcast encouraged customers to replace that with paperless billing for environmental reasons.

Anonymous Coward says:

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

Wait, when did cable TV providers use "innovation" to justify price-hikes? The only innovation that comes to my mind is pay-per-view and cable-based internet, which would have been paid by subscribers to those services (rather than TV subscribers). And I guess the TV-guide channels they added in the ’90s. DVRs were another big change, but Tivo did the innovation there.

Anonymous Coward says:

We subscribe to Amazon Prime, Netflix and Hulu+ as we have done for years now. The rates for those have increased once each during that time but only slightly. We have zero plans to subscribe to any more services because we dumped cable for a reason, or multiple reasons. We’re not going to repeat that mistake with streaming.

Google jacking up their rates by 30% will only ensure their service fails to grow or possibly even shrinks. Others will learn the same lesson. Sooner or later all those varied services will finally decide that they don’t have enough customers to remain viable (except maybe Disney) and will go back to Netflix et. al. with hat in hand to restart contracts. I look forward to that day when there will be something to watch other than Netflix’s low-grade in-house content.

Jeremy Lyman (profile) says:

What's Live TV?

Haaaaardpass; paused till December.

They’ve had the option to add premium channels for more money for a while, which I’ve politely declined. To now roll a substantial price increase into mandatory more channels is just more than I’m willing to weather. Part of me wonders whether they’ve needed to raise prices for a while now and securing some extra stations was an excuse for finally doing it.

I’d like if they did some user surveys or stream tracking for a survival of the fittest channel trimming every quarter. Continually adding stations isn’t what anyone actually wants. Either drop the least popular ones, or separate them into sub-packages I can not buy. You’d have user metrics to show the content owners. "Look, no one watches this. Either we’ll drop you or you’ll lower the price"

Luckily, since I’ve decoupled my content from my utility, it’s a simple click to suspend service and run through my Netflix queue for a few months. Or finally try out Sling… or Hulu… or playon…

nerdrage (profile) says:

no reason for this to be expensive.

Why are people paying so much? I have: Netflix streaming and DVD, $17/month. Amazon Prime, if you count that since I’d get it anyway, about $10/month.

That’s $27/month for pretty much anything I can think of to want to watch, and far more content than I can ever watch. Occasionally I think about sampling Hulu, Disney+ or CBS All Access but I never do. Their stuff comes out on DVD too eventually.

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