Primetime Channels adding Max furthers YouTube’s one-stop-shop video aim – analyst

This week Warner Bros. Discovery announced the ad-free version of Max will be available via YouTube’s subscription marketplace Primetime Channels. It’s a move that nScreenMedia Chief Analyst Colin Dixon pointed to as one of the most recent examples of “meaningful progress” towards Google’s aim of making YouTube a one-stop-shop for video.  

YouTube’s Primetime Channels is a marketplace that aggregates subscriptions, similar to Amazon Channels and Premium Subscriptions available through The Roku Channel. On Primetime Channels users can browse, buy subscriptions, and importantly, both watch the content within the YouTube app and manage and pay for them through Google. Max is the latest addition to Primetime Channels, which debuted in November 2022, and joins over 45 other channels available.  

Google’s YouTube also notably sells and delivers access to the popular NFL Sunday Ticket football package via Primetime Channels, as well as through YouTube TV.

As Dixon noted in his December 12 post on the topic, subscribers to Max through Primetime Channels get all the same content as they would through the standalone app, including live news from CNN Max and sports content from the Bleacher Report (B/R) add-on – the latter at no extra cost through February 29, 2024. 

He did categorize the fact that the ad-supported version of Max isn’t available through YouTube’s marketplace as “telling.”

“Likely, WD Discovery and YouTube could not agree on ad splits. Max is available with ads through Primetime Channels’ competitors, Amazon Channels and The Roku Channel,” Dixon wrote.

Still, adding Max as premium subscription partners is just one of several factors the analyst flagged as evidence of forward traction in YouTube’s march to become a single destination for all things video. In his post, Dixon cited comments from Alphabet SVP and CBO Philipp Schindler during Q1 2023 earnings regarding YouTube’s future when the executive said, “The goal is to be a one-stop shop for multiple types of video content across both ad-supported and premium services.”

During the same call, as reported by StreamTV Insider, executives emphasized a “multi-format strategy” for YouTube, with connected TV engagement in the living a key focus alongside Shorts. And during a May investor conference YouTube CEO Neal Mohan cited explosive growth in consumption of its videos on larger screens in the living, both in the U.S. and overseas.

“Young viewers, when they turn on the TV, they’re turning on YouTube,” Mohan commented during a MoffettNathanson TMT Conference. “And when they turn on YouTube, they want all of their content in one place…their favorite movies, live sports. And that’s the power of our presence in the living room, and that’s what powers our service.”

Indeed, Nielsen’s The Gauge monthly snapshot has shown YouTube as the leading streaming service by share of TV time for nearly every month of 2023, including a 9% share in September. It’s worth noting that Nielsen doesn’t include linear streaming, meaning vMVPDs like YouTube TV, in the streaming category TV share figures.

In addition to premium subscriptions, Dixon called out a rotating collection of free movies and TV available on YouTube as well as the option to buy or rent as boosting YouTube’s one-stop-shop appeal – with the YouTube Movie and TV store ranking as third most-popular in the U.S. and Canada behind Disney+ Premiere Access and first-place Amazon Prime, according to nScreenMedia.

Meanwhile, virtual MVPD YouTube TV has steadily pulled ahead of the pack subscriber-wise. Its last publicly released subscriber count was 5 million, but as noted by Dixon, estimates from Leichtman Research Group peg YouTube TV’s base at 6.5 million as of Q3 2023 – well ahead of its nearest competitor Hulu + Live TV at 4.6 million and only slightly behind traditional satellite TV provider Dish Network at 6.7 million. The analyst also highlighted wins this year with traditional service providers that are shifting away from pay TV and have opted to offer YouTube TV as their video option, including Wide Open West (WOW!) and Frontier Communications.

“YouTube supports all the business models it needs to, can provide the most popular UGC and premium content, and simplifies managing and accessing the content. And many people want a one-stop shop for all their content needs,” Dixon wrote.

Still, there are some gaps. The analyst cited the lack of Netflix, Disney+, Hulu and Prime Video SVOD services on YouTube, but noted they’re not available on The Roku Channel or Amazon Channels either.

“For many people, YouTube could be all they need to manage their TV experience,” he concluded.