Looks like YouTube is working on a channel store
Looks like YouTube is working on a channel store

Looks like YouTube is working on a channel store

YouTube is building a system that allows users to subscribe to streaming services through the YouTube app, The Wall Street Journal reported, and could launch the so-called “channel store” as early as this fall. The SnagThe report did not mention which services might be part of the store, only that YouTube is in talks with several entertainment companies.

A channel store makes perfect sense for YouTube and has been a long time in the making: information reported on a similar plan back in early 2020. More recently, the company indicated that it would: “I think if the content is distributed now in a bundle or that we’re exploring other ways to distribute it over time, I think YouTube can be a great partner there,” Christian Oestlien, YouTube’s vice president of product management, said recently The edge. “We’ve never looked at the world as these binary options between us and our partner services … we think we can all coexist in a very healthy way.”

This is arguably the hottest idea in streaming right now. Tech companies, especially ones that have tried to create their own original content and seen how difficult (and expensive!) it is to do so, decide they’re better off with anything but shows and movies. For example, you already have a Verizon or AT&T account and a bill you pay each month, so your carrier can position itself as a valuable marketing partner and subscription infrastructure provider. It’s a lot like the old cable package, only… internet. And the benefit is the same for app store providers and game stores: a small portion of everything you buy.

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Apple, Amazon and a host of others all champion this cause, and often to great effect. HBO Max has gained 4.5 million subscribers through Amazon channels Snag reported and briefly promised that partnership, but now plans to return. Even Walmart is considering getting in on the act.

YouTube may have the strongest point of any channel store partner. It has a huge audience of over two billion people a month, many of whom already have an account and credit card stored on YouTube. They’ve already downloaded the app, maybe they’re already watching Peacock or HBO, one clip at a time – it’s an easy upsell to subscribe to the service. (YouTube also has the best video player and app on the market, which doesn’t hurt users.)

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Screenshot 2022 08 13 at 11.14.45

Some streaming services already let you subscribe to YouTube TV, but not yet in the main app.
Image: YouTube TV

YouTube has already built part of this platform. 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 things for free. More recently, the code in the Google TV app suggests that 50 free TV channels are coming to the platform.

To some extent, this also feels like a definitive admission that YouTube can’t directly compete with the Netflixes and HBOs of the world. The company has long sought ways to create and deliver more premium content, including a handful of ill-fated attempts to create original TV-style content. (RIP, YouTube Originals.) YouTube is already the go-to place for clips and highlights from TV shows and movies, but it has yet to find 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 see it as both a partner and a necessary evil. While Apple and Amazon have competing services, they don’t pose the existential, paradigm-shifting threat to the TV and film industry that YouTube does. How the Peacocks and Paramount Pluses of the world weigh the value of YouTube’s massive audience against the competitive appeal of content will go a long way in deciding whether YouTube can be the channel store it hopes to be.

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Everyone will want to be the channel store in the future – it’s the app store model again and there’s a lot of money at stake. But if YouTube can do it, it could be even more than that. A YouTube app with all your streaming shows and movies, everything to buy and rent, plus all the creators you love and the search engine that supports it all? This would be the most powerful app in entertainment and it wouldn’t even come close.