YouTube is still slowly dripping out stats about its subscriber base. After the announcement last week that YouTube Premium had hit 100 million subscribers, the company now says YouTube TV, its cable subscription plan, has 8 million subscribers.
Eight million subscribers might sound paltry compared to the 100 million people on Premium, but Premium is only $12. YouTube TV is one of the most expensive streaming subscriptions at $73 a month. The cable-like prices are because this is a cable-like service: a huge bundle of 100-plus channels featuring cable TV stalwarts like CNN, ESPN, and your local NBC, CBS, and ABC channels. $73 is also the base price. Like cable TV, there are additional add-on packages for premium movie channels like HBO and Showtime, 4K packages, and other sports and language add-ons. Let’s also not forget NFL Sunday Ticket, which this year became a YouTube TV exclusive, as a $350-a-year add-on to the $73-a-month service (there’s also a $ 450-a-year standalone package).
The subscriber numbers come from a “Letter from the YouTube CEO” blog post for 2024 from YouTube CEO Neal Mohan. With YouTube basically unable to get any bigger as the Internet’s defacto video host, Mohan says the “next frontier” for YouTube is “the living room and subscriptions.” Mohan wants users “watching YouTube the way we used to sit down together for traditional TV shows—on the biggest screen in the home with friends and family,” and says that “viewers globally now watch more than 1 billion hours on average of YouTube content on their TVs every day.
YouTube TV’s 8 million subscribers make it one of the biggest cable TV providers. Leichtman Research Group’s subscriber numbers for “Major Pay-TV Providers” (that means cable companies and their competitors) in Q3 2023 had No. 1 Comcast and No. 2 Charter both in the 14 million user range, with DirectTV in third with 11.9 million, and Dish in fourth at 6.7 million customers. Leichtman had YouTube TV in fifth, with 6.5 million users. With No. 4 Dish losing customers every quarter, YouTube TV is in fourth place now. It might be No. 3 soon. Leichtman’s numbers had YouTube TV as the fastest grower of the bunch, adding 600,000 customers in Q3, while DirecTV was the biggest loser, with half a million customers dumping their satellite dishes. Q3 marked the start of NFL Sunday Ticket moving from DirecTV to YouTube TV.
Naturally, these are all US numbers, and being nationwide puts YouTube TV on the same playing field as satellite companies, a big advantage compared to regional cable TV providers. YouTube TV has bigger ambitions than just the US, though. During the January earnings call, Google said it was “looking closely at” expanding the service to more countries. YouTube TV would need to clear an expansion with every single channel partner on the service, though, so it has a lot of negotiations to work through.