YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki Steve Jennings/Getty Images for TechCrunch
YouTube is putting its live-TV streaming service in front of millions of potential viewers this week, in the first major test of its product — just days before Super Bowl LII, no less.
At $35 a month, the YouTube TV is "less than half the average cost of cable" according to the company, and the service lets subscribers store an unlimited amount of recorded content via a cloud DVR, meaning no equipment fees. People could access most network content worth watching in real-time (e.g. sports, award shows, shows that Twitter spoils) on some smart TVs, mobile devices, and laptops, and then switch to a platform like Roku or Apple TV to stream any on-demand content from those devices.
But now, YouTube is opening itself up to millions more potential viewers with its debut on Apple TV and some Roku devices.
The direct launch to those devices will be the first major test for YouTube TV: More eyes will mean more scrutiny on how well YouTube's live TV service works, and there are likely to be bugs in the new software as well. It will be interesting to see how YouTube responds to customers early on in the rollout, and how it manages to avoid technical difficulties that plagued its competitors like SlingTV and DirecTV Now early on.
YouTube TV has gained 300,000 subscribers in 83 markets since it launched, according to a report from CNBC's Alex Sharman earlier this month. But since the cord-cutting phenomenon isn't new and many consumers have already invested in hardware and some kind of software solution, it lags far behind SlingTV and DirecTV, which have subscriber bases in the millions.
Fortunately, there's still a hunt to find the product that makes the experience more seamless. Hulu with live TV has already racked up 450,000 subscribers since it launched in April, which suggests people might want to be able to access streaming and cable content in the same place. Hulu's service is slightly more expensive than YouTube TV, at $40 a month on top of the $8 a month that Hulu subscribers pay.
This exposure to Roku and Apple TV owners will give YouTube TV the chance to gain millions of new users, as long as it performs better, or even as well as those alternative streaming options for cord cutters.