YouTube is building a system that allows users to subscribe to streaming services through the YouTube app. The Wall Street Journal informed, and may launch a so-called “channel store” this fall. The Journal‘s report doesn’t say what services might be part of the store, only that YouTube is talking to various entertainment companies.
A channel store makes perfect sense for YouTube and has been for a long time: Information reported a similar plan In early 2020. Recently, the company hinted that it’s coming: “I think whether the content is distributed in a package, or if we explore other ways to distribute it over time, I think YouTube can be a great partner there. ,” YouTube VP of product management Christian Oestelien recently decorated The Verge. “We’ve never looked at the world as these binary choices between ourselves and partner services…we think we can all coexist in a really healthy way.”
This is perhaps the most popular idea in streaming. Tech companies, especially those trying to create their own original content and seeing how difficult (and expensive!) it is, decide it’s better to run everything except shows and movies. For example, you already have an account with Verizon or AT&T and pay them monthly, so your carrier can act as a valuable marketing partner and infrastructure provider for subscriptions. It’s a lot like an old cable set, only… equipped with the internet. Plus, it’s the same for app store providers and game stores: a small fraction of everything you buy.
Apple, Amazon, and a host of other companies all do this, and often to great effect. HBO Max has acquired 4.5 million subscribers through Amazon channels Journal announced and briefly vouched for the partnership, but now reportedly plans to return. Even Walmart is reported thinking about entering the game.
YouTube may have the strongest example of any channel store partner. It has a huge audience, more than two billion people a month, many of whom already have a YouTube account and a credit card. They’ve already downloaded the app, they can even now watch Peacock or HBO one clip at a time – getting them to subscribe to the service is an easy sell. (YouTube also has the best video player and app on the market, which doesn’t hurt users.)
YouTube has even developed some of this platform already. YouTube TV is already a channel store to some extent; you can subscribe to HBO Max, Starz, Showtime and other channels and services directly from the YouTube TV interface. You can also buy and rent movies directly on YouTube and watch some for free. Recently, the code in the Google TV app suggests this 50 free TV channels are coming to the platform.
To some extent, this feels like YouTube’s latest acknowledgment that it can’t compete with the Netflixes and HBOs of the world. The company has long sought ways to create and offer more premium content, including a series of failed attempts to create original television-style content. (RIP, YouTube Originals.) YouTube is already a go-to place for clips and highlights from TV shows and movies, but it hasn’t found great ways to integrate premium Hollywood content into the platform.
For this to work, YouTube will need to convince streaming services that it’s not a long-term threat to their business; YouTube’s relationship with Hollywood has improved over the years, but many entertainment companies still view it as both a partner and a necessary evil. While Apple and Amazon have competing services, they don’t represent the paradigm-shifting threat that YouTube has to the TV and film industry. How the peacocks and Paramount Pluses of the world weigh the value of YouTube’s massive audience against the competitiveness of its content will go a long way to deciding whether YouTube will be the channel store it hopes for.
Everyone will want to be a channel store going forward – it’s the app store model again, and there’s a lot of money at stake. But if YouTube can do it, it can be much more. A YouTube app with all your streaming shows and movies, everything to buy and rent, plus all your favorite creators and a search engine to support it all? It would be the most powerful program in entertainment, and it wouldn’t even be close.