YouTube TV broke my heart today

The cable alternative has me rethinking my options

youtube tv

YouTube TV did something today that I truly did not expect: it raised a grandfathered rate on me.

Before I come across as whiny and/or entitled I want to qualify a few things. First, I am a longtime Google advocate and early adopter. I was on Google Voice back in 2007 when it was still called Grand Central. I sign up for beta access to everything it offers and welcome new endeavors no matter how polished they look.

Do you think it was easy to get through the first year or two of Android? Hardware wasn’t the prettiest and the software wasn’t any better. I bought into the idea and promise of better things.

I’m a Day One Loyalist

Google Wave? Google Plus? Google Play Music? In there on day one. I did the same for YouTube TV the moment it was offered to me in my area.

One reason that I flock to Google services is that the experience almost always gets better. What’s more, Google has never asked me for more money for the privilege of using its apps or services. Whatever I paid at the start, including the stuff that was free, is the same as it is today.

Look how much Google Drive has evolved over the years. Look at how flexible a Google Family account is now. My Google One storage capacity doubled overnight and at no cost. Hell, I’ve been using the same G Suite account that I signed up for years ago because it gave me 100 free users. I know the newer accounts are more feature rich but this one has kept pace with my needs.

I have always gotten more from Google and its services over the various iterations and enhancements. The one thing I could bank on was that it didn’t ask me to pay more for it.

You can imagine, then, the surprise today when I learned that Google was adding $15 to my monthly YouTube TV bill. Indeed, there are now eight more channels included in the service plan, but that’s not the point.

This Feels Familiar

I left my cable provider because of YouTube’s low-cost rate plan. I got in when it was $35 and before it added a second round of channels. It offered me everything I needed, but not quite everything I wanted.

You know how your cable provider has 400 channels but you only watch a couple of them? That’s what I ran away from when I came to YouTube TV. Today’s move feels like a step toward a bunch of channels I don’t/won’t watch.

Over time I saw a few more channels added and optional packages offered. If I wanted to, I could add EPIX ($6/mo.), STARZ ($9), or a couple of other options. NBA League Pass was added as an opt-in deal for $40 per month.

I do not mind that YouTube TV has done this; I expected it. As I see it, these were channels that were not included in the base package but something that I may, or may not, want to add.

In my time with YouTube TV I learned that I was more than content to live without a couple of channels. And, should they ever show up, I anticipated that I might discuss the options with my wife and figure out if a particular channel or network was worth the extra $5-$10.

For my money, $35 was a tremendous deal as I had the ability to create up to six user accounts, each of us with our own unlimited DVR and channel preferences. I absolutely love that I can start a show on my NVIDIA SHIELD, pick up on my phone or PC, and cast to my Google Home Hub. It’s everywhere I need it.

Fool Me Once

Let’s talk about the DVR and how this ought to work. In theory, I set it to record my show(s) and I watch them wherever. Right? Why is it, then, that I am forced to watch VOD versions of shows instead of the one I recorded? That’s right. I am have to watch advertisements and am unable to skip ahead.

I didn’t like this the first time I noticed it and I hate it every time it happens. It’s not DVR. It also smacks of “business” and tells me there are deals in place for particular channels or shows.

You Were the Chosen One!

Today’s move mimics the cable industry to be sure. Perhaps more importantly, it’s a slap in the face of the early adopters. Absolutely zero of YouTube TV’s user base had the channels when they signed up. We all knew what was and wasn’t offered and jumped on board.

Sure, people complained and begged for these channels to be added. More often than not the chatter around it was how users ought to be able to add-on the channels. Today Google added them. Today Google raised my rate 43% in the process.

I have absolutely zero problems with the $50 package as it stands, especially to new subscribers. It’s still competitive and makes for an excellent alternative to traditional methods. But, I fear this was a tipping point and my first step onto the slippery slope.

Just Because You Can Doesn’t Mean You Should

YouTube TV forced me to add channels I don’t want. Even worse, it’s reaching into my pocket for another $180 per year.

I am sure there are business reasons as to why YouTube TV doesn’t offer the new channels as an add-on. And, truth be told, I will probably end up watching something on one of them along the way.

I don’t know what each broadcasts in terms of shows, but I am aware of a few things that may be worth checking out. The reason I don’t know too much about them, though, is because I didn’t need them in my life. I was blissfully ignorant.

The part that hurts me is that Google/YouTube TV will hit its most loyal subscribers with the biggest rate increase. If all of us were on the $40/mo. plan then it would make sense. But, when you start out by grandfathering people into plans, you set a precedent that you may do the same down the road.

Two Fixes; Pick One

Here’s how YouTube TV could do right by me in wake of the new channels. It’s simple stuff, and I am not the only one who thinks these make sense. Really, I’ve hinted at them throughout this article.

  • Keep the grandfathered rate for the most loyal subscribers, or those on the $35 rate plan
  • Move the new channels into its own tier as an add-on package

I’ve already seen plenty of chatter on Twitter and Reddit to tell me that those of us who have been here since the beginning are angry. The company line response seems to be something along the lines of “we hope the unlimited DVR and six accounts is worth keeping us”. Dudes, you don’t even know what DVR really is.

I don’t know how many subscribers there are for YouTube TV and I certainly can’t begin to guess at what percentage of those signed up before the first rate increase. My gut tells me that it’s small enough that it wouldn’t have a sizable impact YouTube TV’s bottom line.

What Happens Next?

I am worried about how far YouTube TV goes with moves like this. Will it continue to add channels and programming, slowly ticking the price up? Probably. I suspect we’ll ultimately get to where it’s more closely aligned with other players in the space.

I am also concerned that Google will try this with other services like YouTube Premium or Google Play Music. It would not surprise me to see that suddenly I will no longer have my playlists and uploaded music because everything is now offered on YouTube Music — at a higher monthly rate.

I didn’t think like this before.

Old Man Yells at Clouds

What will I do now that my bill is going up? Nothing immediately. I’m complaining just to complain. Why? Because I need to get this off my chest and maybe I’ll feel better about it.

I hate that I wasn’t given a warning. We knew months in advance when Google Plus was going away. Google always tells us what’s coming, far in advance.

I also hate that I cannot opt out. In this case, opting out means cancelling.

Before today I had zero reservation about recommending YouTube TV and my eyes never once wanted to wander. That changed today.

I will start to look at what my other options are and whether I might want something else. Maybe an HD antenna is the answer for me. Maybe it’s Hulu’s live programming. Maybe, just maybe, I go back to my cable provider and bundle it in with my internet. I don’t know. But until today I didn’t have to know what the alternative was.

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In addition to smartphones and mobile gadgets, Scott has a deep appreciation for film, music, and sunflower seeds. A husband and father, he likes spending down time riding his mountain bike or binge-watching TV. Scott has overseen the day-to-day activities of AndroidGuys since 2007.
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