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YouTube TV Launches in 5 Cities, Inks Deal With AMC Networks for Internet Skinny Bundle

Variety logo Variety 4/5/2017 Todd Spangler
© Provided by Variety

YouTube is launching its $35 monthly TV package Wednesday in five U.S. markets — New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco Bay Area, Chicago and Philadelphia — and announced a deal with AMC Networks to add the cabler’s channels to the lineup.

With the roughly 50-channel bundle, priced at less than half the average cost of cable TV, the internet video giant is angling to win over millennials who are already big YouTube fans but have shied away from traditional pay TV. YouTube TV includes live and VOD programming, an unlimited cloud-based DVR (which will store recordings for nine months), and access to YouTube Red originals.

For now, people across a large portion of the U.S. will be unable to subscribe to YouTube TV; Google says it’s working to bring the service to additional metro areas. One of the gating factors: getting the deals for local TV broadcast networks in each market.

YouTube TV’s anchor programming comprises the broadcast and cable networks from four media conglomerates: Disney/ABC, 21st Century Fox, CBS and NBCUniversal. Soon after launch, YouTube TV will add AMC Networks’ AMC, BBC America, IFC, SundanceTV, WeTV and BBC World News.

YouTube TV is launching in the initial five cities amid a flurry of action in the over-the-top TV space. Hulu prepping its own sub-$40 skinny bundle, set to join others including AT&T’s DirecTV Now, Dish’s Sling TV, Sony PlayStation Vue and FuboTV.

“We are not trying to replicate other offerings in the marketplace. We are letting users drive this for us,” said Kelly Merryman, VP of content partnerships for YouTube. “We tried to identify the right set of programming from Day One — and I think we’ve got it.”

In evaluating what channels to pack into its skinny bundle, YouTube found that its target audience of users 18-34 wanted live sports and primetime shows. That led it to the major broadcasters, Merryman said. It’s adding AMC because its networks also skew toward millennial viewers — with “The Walking Dead” still standing as the No. 1 primetime show on television in the demo.

Absent from YouTube TV’s lineup for the foreseeable future: Time Warner’s HBO and Turner networks, including CNN, TBS and TNT; Viacom networks like Comedy Central and MTV; Discovery Communications; and Scripps Networks Interactive’s channels like HGTV and Food Network. Merryman said YouTube is continually talking to content partners about potential distribution, but that the lineup is set for the launch period.

Channels that are in the YouTube TV mix include ABC, CBS, Fox, NBC, ESPN, Fox Sports Networks, Comcast SportsNet, FX, USA Network, Disney Channel, Bravo, MSNBC and Fox News. CBS-owned Showtime — the only premium channel available in YouTube TV right now — and Fox Soccer Plus are available for an additional monthly charge.

Meanwhile, also under the multiyear pact with AMC Networks, YouTube TV will offer the programmer’s SVOD services Sundance Now, dedicated to independent film, TV series and documentaries for $7 per month, and Shudder, offering movies for fans of thriller, supernatural and horror films, for $5 per month.

“YouTube TV is a new and innovative platform, and they have special appeal for a young, mobile-first demo,” said Bob Broussard, president of distribution for AMC Networks. The programmer’s “tight group of channels” that skew toward the under-40 set are “perfectly suited for a platform like this.”

Currently, YouTube TV is available to watch on TV only with a Google Chromecast or Chromecast-enabled TV; Google says it plans to add support for more connected-TV devices later this year. But the service is designed for people for whom the smartphone is their first screen: The YouTube TV apps for iOS and Android will provide access to live TV and DVR recordings anywhere in the U.S. (although access to live local TV channels will be restricted to a subscriber’s home market).

To fuel signups, Google is offering a 30-day free trial of YouTube TV, and it’s also offering customers who sign up (and pay for at least one month) a free Google Chromecast adapter while supplies last.

YouTube TV includes access to the original programming on YouTube Red, which ordinarily costs $9.99 per month. That includes original series like AwesomenessTV’s comedy “Foursome,” “Rhett & Link’s Buddy System” and “Scare PewDiePie” (although season 2 has been canceled) along with movies including Rooster Teeth’s “Lazer Team,” Smosh’s “Ghostmates,” Lilly Singh’s “A Trip to Unicorn Island,” and a documentary about transgender YouTube star Gigi Gorgeous.

YouTube provides up to six accounts, letting customers share the YouTube TV membership with family members or roommates, and each account will receive its own unique recommendations and cloud DVR with no storage limits. Each household can watch up to three streams at a time.

Initially, YouTube TV will not sell advertising for the local ad slots granted to pay-TV distributors. (Ads for Google and YouTube products and services will run in those slots.) Down the line, Google’s ad-sales team will handle.

Watch a promo video for YouTube TV:

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