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Week In Review: YouTube TV Launches; Netflix’s Shows Still Sort of Unknown

1. YouTube TV Launches

YouTube launched its YouTube TV skinny bundle service this week in five cities: Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco,

What do all five have in common? Owned and Operated (O&O) broadcast affiliates. That means they are able to show network TV’s prime time programming live, as opposed to areas with local affiliates, where prime time will likely only be available on demand (or via an antenna, for those who don’t want to wait for it.)

Why It Matters

While there’s nothing wrong with YouTube’s bundle, there’s nothing all that special about it either, and unless the interface is far more stylish and user-friendly than Google’s let on, there doesn’t seem to be a compelling reason for anyone to switch or to choose YouTube over Sling or DirecTV Now.

To further beat the dead horse we’ve been beating for a while now, we’re not big fans of skinny bundles or bullish on their future. Too often people check them out and realize they are only saving about 30% on their bills while giving up 70% of their available content. That, and the next tier up—mid-sized bundles—are generally only about $10 or $15/month more, while offering a much wider array of options.

Then there’s the whole MVPD-controlling-the-internet thing: it’s way too easy for the MVPDs, who already have a virtual monopoly on broadband, to put together a broadband + entry level TV package that makes services like YouTube TV seem overpriced and overly lean. As in they can price standalone broadband higher than broadband plus their introductory level service and it’s not like the new Trump-era FCC is going to find anything wrong with that.

The MVPDs also have their own TV Everywhere apps, which we predict they are going to start selling as part of a broadband + streaming offering—if they already have the app and all the rights taken care of, there’s no reason they wouldn’t sell it to “cord nevers” as part of a broadband package. And, as noted, above, they can set pricing so that this new bundle is less than broadband alone, making for the proverbial “offer you can’t refuse.”

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an MVPD, you want to get your TV Everywhere app in order, and pay extra attention to the interface and design—that’s where there’s real room for improvement.

If you’re a network, you want to jump on every bandwagon out there—the more places you can reach potential viewers, the better, and the optics are just poor if you’re not on a well-publicized new platform. (Talking to you, Viacom.)

If you’re an advertiser, you’ll want to see how many viewers the new platform actually has, though that may give you a strong negotiating advantage and you can dominate the ad load on YouTube TV. Just make sure you’ve got enough creative units on tap so you don’t get repetitive, which can happen very quickly.


2. Netflix Shows Still Sort of Unknown

Buried inside a Variety story on Netflix’s and Hulu’s new late night talk shows, was a tidbit about some research from Katz Media Group on how many people were unaware of Netflix’s original programming: 71% said they had never heard of Netflix’s “The Crown,” compared with just 33% for NBC’s “This Is Us” and 6% for HBO’s “Game of Thrones.”

Why It Matters

Those of us who work in media-related jobs and live in NY, LA or SF tend to forget how much of a bubble we live in when it comes to what we watch. That’s why so many of us are baffled when cord-cutting numbers come in at under 1%. Or when Golden Globe-winning series like “The Crown” are a cipher to most Americans.

The truth is most people are still watching network TV. Kids too—someone is watching Nick and Disney Channel, they’re not all on YouTube. We need to step back and remember that, like our voting habits, our viewing habits are often limited to our own bubble and the types of shows we enjoy are not the same shows the rest of the country enjoys. Even shows like “The Crown” which is not particularly highbrow (accents excepted) and should enjoy more mass appeal.

What You Need To Do About It

If you’re an advertiser, remember that you still reach most of your audience via broadcast and cable TV. Even if you yourself find you rarely watch those channels.

If you’re an executive at one of the broadcast or cable networks, stop apologizing for your audience. They are still valuable and they’re loyal and they watch and often love your shows.

If you’re a Netflix executive: more marketing and PR. It’s great to get love from TV critics and New York Times readers, but a show like “The Crown” should have HBO-like recognition numbers. Get to work on it.