June 5, 2023

YouTube’s new Primetime Channels combine 34 streaming services into one place

Enlarge / YouTube today announced the Primetime Channels feature.

As many feared, the proliferation of streaming services has made cutting the cord feel like cable TV. In addition to the cheaper monthly subscription fees starting to add up, figuring out which service has the content you want and juggling apps can feel as time-consuming and cumbersome as flipping channels. Announced today, YouTube’s Primetime Channels aims to change that by aggregating and selling content from 34 streaming partners on YouTube.

Primetime Channels will launch in the US with streaming services from partners including AMC+, Epix, Paramount+, Starz and Showtime, available to subscribe to and watch in the Movies & Shows section of YouTube. More streaming services, including NBA League Pass, are coming, Erin Teague, YouTube’s director of product management, said in a blog post.

The full list of Primetime Channels partners includes some smaller names.

The full list of Primetime Channels partners includes some smaller names.

Primetime Channels content will appear alongside any other YouTube content, including in recommendations and searching for purchased content, Teague’s blog said. The executive told The Verge that Primetime Channels content does not get priority over other content in recommendations or search results. This means a viral video from Showtime Yellow jackets may rank higher than the actual episode of the show when looking at recommendations or search results. You can even like, dislike or comment on Primetime Channels videos even if there is no viewership.

Over the past few years, brands have rushed to displace their own streaming services, leaving viewers with a plethora of subscriptions and apps. YouTube’s Primetime Channels (not to be confused with Amazon Prime Video, of course) is a smart way to bring a lot of paid content to a single platform known for presenting video in a fluid, shareable, and perhaps most importantly, binge-able format.

YouTube has strived to be the place where people watch mainstream TV shows and movies, as evidenced by its YouTube TV, which offers live viewing on cable networks. So far, however, it hasn’t been able to get enough of the right partnerships to launch a feature like Primetime Channels.

YouTube told The Wall Street Journal that it plans to expand Primetime channels outside the United States and with local services.
Enlarge / YouTube told The Wall Street Journal that it plans to expand Primetime channels outside the United States and with local services.

Streaming partners are hoping subscription numbers will improve when you get direct access to YouTube’s massive membership.

As The Wall Street Journal noted, YouTube’s first annual ad sales fell last quarter, making subscription-based revenue even more important. Despite the decline in ad sales, the WSJ reports that YouTube TV revenue is forecast to reach $9.1 billion in 2022, according to asset manager Credit Suisse. Christian Oestlien, YouTube’s vice president of product management, said in a statement to the WSJ that Primetime channels could be “as big or even a bigger opportunity” than YouTube TV currently is.

With Primetime Channels, YouTube adds another form of subscription-based revenue. The WSJ reported that YouTube would evenly share revenue from Primetime Channels subscriptions and ad sales with its streaming service partners. Primetime Channels does not offer significant discounts to new subscribers to partner streaming services.

With Nielsen recently reporting that streaming TV was more popular than cable in the US for the first time, it makes sense for YouTube to increase its streaming efforts. According to Nielsen, YouTube (including YouTube TV) represented 7.3 percent of TV streaming in July, behind Netflix (8 percent) and “other” (10.2 percent).

YouTube is not the first service to combine streaming services. There’s Roku, for example, and Amazon Prime Video has content from things like AMC+, Discovery+, Starz, and Showtime, and Verizon’s +play has content from Disney+ and Netflix. Notably, content from some streaming juggernauts like Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu is missing from the Primetime Channels launch.

However, YouTube seems optimistic about expanding its list of partnerships, making it increasingly likely that the show or movie you want to watch will be available through YouTube.

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