Opinion: YouTube TV cost increase likely all about sports, the NFL in particular

George M. Thomas
Akron Beacon Journal
The logo for YouTube TV
  • YouTube TV is the country's most popular live TV streaming service.
  • YouTube TV has five million subscribers.
  • Google recently acquired the NFL Sunday Ticket for YouTube TV and YouTube.

YouTube TV subscribers reach for your wallets.

Google’s popular live TV service has deemed it necessary raise their subscription prices a not insignificant 12% from $64.99 to $72.99, according to an email the company sent subscribers Thursday:

"We have an important update for our members. After nearly 3 years, we’re adjusting our monthly price from $64.99/month to $72.99/month. As content costs have risen and we continue to invest in the quality of our service, we are updating our price to keep bringing you the best possible service."

Personally, I never begrudge a company from making an honest buck, but on the surface, I understand why the average person who doesn’t use YTTV for sports programming would want to flee. With this price change comes nothing new in terms of services – meaning channels - immediately.

Additionally, this price increase feels as if it’s being passed on to the service’s 5 million subscribers because of changes being made primarily because of sports. That’s an opinion not a fact.

Google just snapped up rights to the NFL Sunday Ticket , the league’s package of out-of-market games, in a huge deal worth approximately $2 billion per year to the NFL.

By the time DirecTV’s exclusive contract ended after last season, they had 1.5 million subscribers who paid at least $300 per season, with more expensive packages with extra content available. The package will be available for subscription on YouTube TV and YouTube (Oh yeah, they’ve raised the price on the premium edition of that one, too), but price hasn’t been established and it doesn’t really matter, because if Google’s numbers are in the same ballpark at DirecTV’s, it’s a loss leader.

But wait, there’s more.

No self-respecting football fan can watch just one game at a time , which is why YouTube TV recently announced that its multiview feature is going live on a limited basis as the NCAA Tournament gets underway.

No offense, I don’t think anyone — meaning non-sports fans — plans to use such a feature to watch multiple episodes of “NCIS” or “CSI” when they air on multiple networks simultaneously.

Someone has to foot the bill for such innovation, even when it’s highly unlikely that most YTTV subscribers will use the feature. I’m old enough to remember picture-in-picture as a feature on TV sets and I even used it – minimally – for football games. Notice that P-I-P is no longer a feature in TVs any longer. Still, any subscriber to YTTV, gets to pay.

These particular changes are about one thing – sports. The paradigm is changing across the sports marketplace . It may be to the disadvantage of some leagues such as MLB, the NBA and the NHL because of the likely collapse of the regional sports network model.

But the NFL? The NFL is king. Their popularity and revenues keep rising and we all get to keep paying for it – one way or the other.