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Cutting the cord used to be a cost saver, but the once-savvy maneuver took a hit when YouTube TV, YouTube’s live-TV service that offers access to over 100 linear-television channels, set its first major price increase since 2020. The $64.99 service will now cost $72.99 per month, an $8 (and 12 percent) increase. New subscribers will see the higher price effective immediately; monthly bills for existing members will rise on April 18.
“As content costs have risen and we continue to invest in the quality of our service, we are updating our price to keep bringing you the best possible service,” YouTube TV said via an email to its current users Thursday. “We hope YouTube TV continues to be your service of choice, but we also understand that some members may want to cancel their service.”
It’s a significant hike, but it reflects a market in which users are increasingly comfortable using an online app for local and live TV — and with that, the ability to subscribe and cancel without having to run the gantlet of cable customer service.
YouTube TV and other apps of its kind, like Hulu Live TV or Sling, occupy a unique place in the TV landscape — they’re effectively streaming services that mirror traditional cable bundles. It’s cutting the cord for people who want to lose their cable provider and set-top box, but not the channels. (DirecTV Stream and Spectrum are among the streaming services that also may require a proprietary device, which may come with a separate charge.)
How similar is the user experience compared to cable TV? Earlier on Thursday, Nielsen said it will no longer consider virtual Multichannel Video Programming Distributors (aka vMVPDs) separate from linear television in its monthly newsletter The Gauge, which tracks how consumers watch television. Prior to that, The Gauge lumped in vMVPDs with streaming. The most recent report in January had YouTube TV accounting for 14.9 percent of all YouTube viewing; Hulu Live made up 9.1 percent of all Hulu viewing.
At this point, vMPDs aren’t necessarily the more cost-conscious option. YouTube TV has a $10.99 sports add-on, a $14.99 Spanish-language add-on, and an array of premium add-ons like HBO, Starz, or Showtime. It’s not hard to cross $100 per month.
Hulu Live TV, which currently has about 4.4 million users, costs $69.99, or $75.99 if you want to remove ads from on-demand content (there are also a multitude of bundling options for Disney’s other streamers, Disney+ and ESPN Plus). Add two separate $9.99 bundles for various sports and the ability to watch on unlimited screens, a $4.99 Spanish programming bundle, a $7.99 bundle for various assorted networks like the Cooking Channel and MTV Classic, and several premium add-ons like Showtime and HBO, and you could shell out between $147 and $154 a month.
In other words, it starts to look like a cable bill. A report from US News last year showed that most people pay around $200 a month for their cable bill; easily half of that is for the internet access required for streaming.
To cushion the blow of the price hike, YouTubeTV simultaneously announced that the 4K Plus video resolution add-on will drop its price from $19.99 per month to $9.99; new users of the option can receive a special $4.99 per month rate for the next year. A user who previously subscribed to the add-on will pay slightly less, $82.98 (or $2 less), than their prior monthly fee.
What YouTube TV is most certainly not throwing in is its shiniest new add-on, NFL Sunday Ticket. The package, which broadcasts all out-of-market NFL games, spent years as an exclusive to DirecTV. Google struck a deal to bring the package to YouTube TV for the coming football season.
On DirecTV, Sunday Ticket cost $293.94 per season for the basic package or $395.94 with bonus features; YouTube TV is expected to price it somewhere around $300.
Even without Sunday Ticket, YouTube TV was already a hot ticket. (In July 2022, the company said 5 million people either paid for or were testing out YouTube TV, up from 2 million subs in mid-2020.)