YouTube TV Hikes Prices By $15 A Month, Blaming Rising Programming Costs: “We Don’t Take These Decisions Lightly”

YouTube CEO Susan Wojicki speaks at the YouTube TV launch event in 2017. Reed Saxon/AP/Shutterstock

Continuing a steady escalation of prices by the pay-TV packages formerly known as “skinny bundles,” YouTube TV has announced a price hike to $64.99 a month, an eye-opening increase of $15.

The new price, outlined in a blog post, takes effect Tuesday for new subscribers. Those currently paying for YouTube TV, which launched in 2017, will see the change reflected in billing cycles on or after July 30.

Programming costs, the bane of every pay-TV provider, were blamed for the increase. One recent deal to add to its roster of 85-plus channels was struck with ViacomCBS, eight of whose networks went live Tuesday, a list including BET, CMT, Comedy Central, MTV, Nickelodeon, Paramount Network, TV Land and VH1. The companies in May had announced an expanded carriage deal spanning 14 networks, with the remaining six to light up at a later date.

“We don’t take these decisions lightly, and realize how hard this is for our members,” Christian Oestlien, VP of Product Management at YouTube TV wrote in the blog post. “This new price reflects the rising cost of content and we also believe it reflects the complete value of YouTube TV, from our breadth of content to the features that are changing how we watch live TV.”

YouTube TV and Hulu’s live TV offering have seen significant growth since arriving on a market seeded by a group of original internet-delivered operators, among them Sling TV and DirecTV Now. Early in 2020, YouTube parent Google said YouTube TV had passed 2 million subscribers. Disney in May said Hulu was at 3.3 million.

The formerly “skinny” packages have all bulked up, necessitating price hikes and in some ways nullifying their original cord-shaving value proposition. Especially during the economic downturn caused by COVID-19, consumers have opted to drop service rather than pay rates more consistent with traditional pay-TV setups. Sling has seen subscriber declines of late, as has AT&T TV (the current name of the former DirecTV product). Sony’s PlayStation Vue recently folded after a five-year run as an early internet-TV player.

Unlike more constrained rivals, YouTube TV has leveraged the deep pockets of Google to spend aggressively on marketing. The TV offering has secured presenting sponsorships on marquee sports events like the World Series and the NBA Playoffs, boosting awareness and visibility.

Oestlien underscored the DVR improvements and other tech enhancements that have recently been implemented. He also noted the ability for customers to stop and start service without the 2-year contracts or legacy equipment or red tape of traditional pay-TV.

“While we would love every member to continue to stay with our service, we understand that some of you may choose to pause or cancel your membership,” he wrote. “We want to make YouTube TV flexible for you, so members can pause or cancel anytime.”

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