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How Can YouTube TV Compete with Hulu Live TV After DVR Upgrade?

Ben Bowman

The leading live TV streaming providers are YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV. But the recent months have eroded YouTube TV’s advantage. How can the streamer push back on its most ferocious rival?

In December, Hulu Live TV increased its price to $69.99, pushing it above YouTube TV’s $64.99. But that $5 bump brought a staggering value: Disney+ and ESPN+ are now included in the subscription.

The head-to-head battle between the services usually came down to whether users preferred YouTube TV’s unlimited DVR or Hulu’s included on-demand library of originals and archival content. Beyond that, the services were almost indistinguishable.

The channel lineups are almost identical. YouTube TV offers these channels that Hulu doesn’t: AMC and WE tv. But Hulu will be your choice if you like to watch A&E, History, and Lifetime.

So now that Hulu Live TV has announced it’s adding an Unlimited DVR for all new and existing subscribers, along with fast-forwarding on all recorded content at no extra charge, YouTube TV’s biggest advantage is gone.

The advantage for YouTube TV is now essentially a $5 savings. The advantage for Hulu Live TV is thousands of hours of original programming on three separate on-demand services. Almost everything else about the services is identical. So what can YouTube TV do to fight back? Here are some possibilities.

YouTube TV Could Integrate Ad-Free YouTube

Perhaps the easiest move available to YouTube TV is to simply incorporate an ad-free subscription to YouTube. Since users already use the same sign-on, it would be an easy and useful benefit for YouTube TV subscribers.

YouTube TV Could Get Smarter

In the olden days of TiVo, the device was smart enough to scan TV listings to automatically record any programming featuring a chosen actor, director, or musical act. That meant you could spotlight Ewan McGregor and the device would automatically record all his movies, along with any talk shows or documentaries where he would appear. It was a great way for fans to keep tabs on their favorite entertainers. TiVo also automatically recorded shows that were thematically similar to those already on the DVR.

It would not be hard for YouTube TV to integrate this logic. There’s simply so much content churning around, and Google could use its superior search product to help viewers narrow their choices. The product already allows users to rearrange their channel lineups - YouTube TV could become a smarter, more customizable streaming option.

YouTube TV Could Include 4K

It’s 2022. There’s really no reason any service should be upcharging for 4K. In fact, fuboTV includes it in its base package. The YouTube TV 4K add-on is wildly overpriced at $19.99/month. There’s also so little 4K content, that pricing seems out of whack.

YouTube TV Could Partner With Netflix

If YouTube TV wanted to fight back against the Hulu-Disney+-ESPN+ bundle and its tidal wave of content, the company could partner with streaming’s 800-pound gorilla: Netflix. A free Netflix subscription would blunt the difference significantly. YouTube got out of the original content game, so it would be hard to fight fire without fire.

Surely, YouTube TV could partner with another VOD service (or two or three), but Netflix is the big gun in the fight.

YouTube TV Could Re-Add Bally RSNs

Sports fans have been grumbling loudly since YouTube TV tossed the Fox Sports/Bally channels overboard. They’re wildly expensive and they only serve a small subset of subscribers. Given that YouTube TV is trying to maintain its one-main-tier pricing, that would require YouTube TV to raise prices on all subscribers or segment them off into wildly expensive tiers for sports fans. DIRECTV STREAM chose the expensive tier options, and it’s the only streaming option for fans of teams that have games on those RSNs.

Sling TV wisely sidestepped the issue by offering customers the decision on which channels they’re willing to pay for. Users can pay for expensive channels like ESPN without necessarily taking the hit of other expensive channels.

In October, The Streamable discovered that YouTube TV was open to “flexible channel options,” so we may see that as a competitive move in the near future.

YouTube TV Could Cut Its Price

One easy way to satisfy subscribers would be to simply cut the price. That would run counter to every trend in the industry, but it would widen the gap between YouTube TV and Hulu Live TV.

Hulu’s aggressive moves over the last few months make it a nearly unbeatable value for one-stop live video and on-demand streaming. YouTube TV is a great product, but its advantage seems to have disappeared. Will the service fight back or continue letting Hulu Live TV take market share? Only time will tell.


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