The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Google is going after cable with its own streaming service, YouTube TV

Placeholder while article actions load

Google is taking the plunge into live television with a new streaming service that's designed to compete with Sling TV, DirecTV Now and PlayStation Vue.

Google revealed YouTube TV — a $35-a-month service that allows for up to six user profiles — at a media event Tuesday in Los Angeles. The plan, which like other streaming services does not require a contract or long-term commitment, comes with many of the same key channels available on other platforms, such as Comcast SportsNet, ESPN, Syfy and the Disney Channel. Add-ons such as Showtime will also be available.

YouTube TV also comes with a strong array of broadcast network channels, such as ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC and the CW, though Viacom appears to be absent from the lineup. Local news programming from network affiliates will also be included, according to Robert Kyncl, YouTube's chief business officer, at the event.

Still, YouTube TV lacks some notable cable channels — CNN, HBO and Cartoon Network are not on the list featured in YouTube's blog post, for example.

“It's missing a heck of a lot of content that people watch,” said Rich Greenfield, a media analyst at BTIG. He added that many people could build a similar, cheaper TV experience with a digital broadcast antenna and a Hulu subscription. Still, he added, Google's entry into the mix is ultimately a good sign.

“The clear and obvious winner here is the consumer,” he said.

YouTube users watch as many as 1 billion hours of video a day on the service, the company said earlier this week in a blog post. Those kinds of numbers show exactly why YouTube is entering the market for TV: As more viewers shift their media consumption to Internet streaming options, Google risks having some of that consumption flow to other services. But with its tremendous advantages in software and an existing loyal user base on YouTube, Google faces an enormous opportunity to compete in live television, as well. One sign of Google's confidence? It's offering an unlimited amount of free DVR storage space.

Here's how YouTube TV stacks up against its rivals. Whereas Google's new offering provides 40 channels for $35 a month, a comparable package from Sling TV gets you 44 channels for $25 a month. DirecTV sells about 60 channels for $35 a month, and PlayStation Vue also sells a 60-channel bundle for $35. Of course, the sheer number of channels that a service provides isn't the only measure of quality; there's also the question of whether the channels provided are ones you'd like to watch. But that's up to you.

YouTube TV is rolling out on a market-by-market basis; you can sign up to be notified when it becomes available here.