Just days after Google and Amazon buried the hatchet over their longstanding streaming feud, Google has made another interesting inroad in its bid to bring yet more ubiquity to its YouTube-based premium video efforts. Today, Verizon (which owns TechCrunch) and the search giant announced a new partnership where Verizon customers will be able to subscribe to YouTube TV through their accounts to watch “on whatever platform they choose,” in the words of Erin McPherson, Verizon’s head of content strategy and acquisition.
That will mean, in Verizon terms, getting a YouTube TV stream if you are a 5G wireless home customer as part of an internet bundle, or as part of your Fios subscription if you are a customer of Verizon’s fiber-optic TV, telephone and internet service. It sounds like there will be other options to come. “Verizon will also offer unique, high-value YouTube TV promotions to customers across platforms,” the company added.
YouTube TV is an all-in-one bundle that essentially replaces the kinds of packages offered by cable TV providers that includes some 70 networks such as ABC, CBS, FOX and NBC, cable channels like HGTV, Food Network, TNT, TBS, CNN, ESPN, FX and on-demand video, which also includes DVR options for each of the six accounts that comes with a subscription, along with recommendation algorithms (similar to Netflix’s) for each viewer. It looks like the YouTube TV offer will sit alongside other bundles that Verizon already offers to users, for example see these action/entertainment, kids and sports/news bundles of channels on Fios. Fios also offers new customers one free year of Netflix.
The deal underscores Verizon’s ongoing efforts to play nice with third-party content providers to continue enhancing the array of services that consumers have to choose from at Verizon, in particular after one of its own efforts to build a mobile video service, go90, came and went.
It’s not easy building content empires from the ground up when there are already a number of competitors that have established services, and so it seems Verizon is now taking the other route. More options for content helps sweeten the deal and keep people from moving to other services, or away from any bundles at all and opting to create their own a la carte selections, cord-cutter style.
This is especially important as it continues to build out its next-generation 5G wireless network and looks for more subscribers and usage of it. In its earnings report earlier today, Verizon reported that it was investing some $4.3 billion in capex in the first quarter of the year to build out that 5G network, which is in part meant to help optimise video traffic over wireless networks.
“Our network and technology leadership uniquely positions us to lead the content revolution, which centers around choice for our customers,” said McPherson in a statement. “As we pave the path forward on 5G, we’ll continue to bring our customers options and access to premium content by teaming up with the best providers in the industry and leveraging our network as-a service strategy. We were first in the world to bring commercial 5G to our customers and now another first on the content front as we offer our customers access to YouTube TV on whatever platform they choose.”
Google and Verizon have not always been on the same side of every issue, although they have in years past found common ground on thorny subjects like net neutrality (even if only temporarily). But also, Google (as well as other mobile companies like Apple) arguably disrupted the stronghold that telcos like Verizon had over ‘owning’ consumers when it came to communications services, and all the financial upside that came with it.
The knock on effect of that has also played out in advertising and attempts to build services that can compete with the might of Google (one reason Verizon acquired Aol and then Yahoo), but also using advertising, ironically, as a pawn in that bigger race: Verizon was among the companies that joined an advertising boycott against YouTube once over questionable content.
But as frenemies are wont to do, now the two appear to be in harmony in the aid of common ends.
For Google, it gives the company — in hot competition with a number of other over-the-top streaming providers like Amazon and Netflix and Apple — one more route to reaching consumers wherever they happen to be already, and whether they are watching on a mobile phone or a TV in their living rooms. It’s not clear in the release, but it would be interesting to know if Verizon provides preferred bandwidth to a service as part of the partnership that would improve the quality of the stream.
As a point of comparison, last week Google said that YouTube users on Fire TV will be able to sign in, have full access to their library and play videos in 4K HDR at 60 fps on supported devices.
It’s not clear what kind of pricing Verizon will offer for YouTube TV, which costs $49.99 per month in the US for new customers.
“YouTube TV has become known for its best-in-class user experience that enhances the way users watch live TV today,” said Heather Rivera, global head of product partnerships at YouTube, in a statement. “With this partnership, we’re making it simple and seamless for Verizon’s customers to sign up to enjoy YouTube TV on-the-go on their mobile phones or tablets or at home on their big screen devices.”
We’ll update this post as we learn more.