YouTube’s new Primetime channels consolidate 34 streaming services into one place

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YouTube Primetime Channels on TV and Smartphone
Enlarge / YouTube today announced the Primetime Channels feature.

As many feared, the proliferation of streaming services has made cutting the cord look a lot like cable TV. Not only are those cheaper monthly subscription fees starting to add up, but figuring out which service has the content you want and juggling apps can feel as time-consuming and tedious as changing channels. YouTube’s Primetime Channels announced today aim to change that by unifying and selling content from 34 streaming partners on YouTube.

Primetime Channels begins its US rollout with partner streaming services including AMC+, Epix, Paramount+, Starz and Showtime available to subscribe and watch in the Movies & Shows section of YouTube. More streaming services, including NBA League Pass, are on the way, said a blog post from YouTube director of product management Erin Teague.

The full list of Primetime Channels partners includes a few smaller names.

The full list of Primetime Channels partners includes a few smaller names.

Content from Primetime channels will be visible alongside all other YouTube content, including in recommendations and when searching through purchased content, Teague’s blog post said. The executive told The Verge that content from Primetime channels will not receive preferential treatment in recommendations or search results over other content. This means a viral video on Showtime yellow jackets might rank higher than an actual episode of the series when reviewing recommendations or search results. You will even be able to like, dislike, or comment on videos from Primetime channels, although there are no viewer counts.

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

YouTube has strived to be a place where people watch mainstream TV shows and movies, as evidenced by its YouTube TV, which offers live viewing on cable networks. However, so far it has not been able to secure enough good 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, meanwhile, hope to see subscription numbers improve with direct access to YouTube’s huge membership.

As noted by The Wall Street Journal, YouTube saw its first annual ad sales decline last quarter, making subscription-based revenue all the more important. Despite declining ad sales, the WSJ reported that YouTube TV revenue is expected to hit $9.1 billion in 2022, citing wealth manager Credit Suisse. In a statement to the WSJ, Christian Oestlien, vice president of product management at YouTube, said Primetime channels can be “as big, if not a bigger opportunity” than YouTube TV is now.

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

After Nielsen recently reported that streaming TV was more popular than cable for the first time in the US, it makes sense for YouTube to ramp up its streaming efforts. According to Nielsen, YouTube (including YouTube TV) accounted for 7.3% of TV streaming in July, behind Netflix (8%) and “other” (10.2%).

YouTube is not the first service to unite streaming services. There’s Roku, for one, and Amazon Prime Video has content from AMC+, Discovery+, Starz and Showtime, to name a few, and Verizon’s +play includes content from Disney+ and Netflix. Notably, content from some of the streaming behemoths, including Netflix, Disney+, and Hulu, is missing from the Primetime Channels launch.

However, YouTube seems optimistic about expanding its list of partners, making it more and more likely that the show or movie you want to watch will be accessible through YouTube.

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