YouTube is reportedly working on a channel store – and so is everyone else
YouTube is building a system that would allow users to subscribe to streaming services through the YouTube app, The Wall Street Journal reported, and could launch the so-called “channel store” as soon as this fall. The LogThe report doesn’t say which services might be part of the store, only that YouTube has spoken with various entertainment companies.
A channel store makes perfect sense for YouTube, and it’s been in the works for a long time: Information reported on a similar plan in early 2020. More recently, the company reported that this was happening: “I think if the content is distributed in a package, or if over time we explore other ways to distribute it, I think YouTube can to be a great partner there,” YouTube VP of Product Management Christian Oestlien said recently. The edge. “We’ve never looked at the world as these binary choices between us and partner services…we believe we can all co-exist in a really healthy way.”
This is perhaps the most popular idea in the streaming industry now. Tech companies, especially those who have tried to create their own original content and seen how difficult (and expensive!) it is to do so, are deciding that it’s best to manage everything but shows and movies. You already have an account with Verizon or AT&T, for example, and a bill you pay them every month, so your carrier can present itself as a valuable marketing partner and infrastructure provider for subscriptions. It’s kind of like the old wire harness, just… connected to the internet. And the benefit is the same for app providers and game stores: a small portion of everything you buy.
Apple, Amazon and a number of others are all doing this, and often to great effect. HBO Max got 4.5 million subscribers through Amazon Channels, the Log reported, and briefly dropped that partnership, but is now planning to return. Even Walmart is reportedly considering getting into the game.
However, YouTube may have the strongest case of all channel store partners. It has a huge following, over two billion people a month, many of whom already have an account and a registered credit card on YouTube. They’ve already downloaded the app, they might already be watching Peacock or HBO shows one clip at a time – it’s an easy upsell to get them subscribed to the service. (YouTube also has the best video player and app on the market, which doesn’t hurt its case for users.)
YouTube even has part of this platform already built. YouTube TV is already to some extent a channel store; you can subscribe to HBO Max, Starz, Showtime and other channels and services right from the YouTube TV interface. You can also buy and rent movies directly from YouTube and watch some things for free. More recently, Google TV app code suggests 50 free TV channels are coming to the platform.
To some extent, it also feels like a final admission that YouTube can’t compete head-on with the Netflix and HBOs of the world. The company has long looked for 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 snippets of TV shows and movies, but hasn’t found great ways to bring premium Hollywood content onto the platform. form.
For this to work, YouTube will need to convince streaming services that this isn’t 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. Even though Apple and Amazon have competitive services, they don’t pose the revolutionary, existential threat to the TV and movie industry that YouTube poses. How the world’s Peacocks and Paramount Pluses weigh the value of YouTube’s massive audience against the competitive appeal of its content will go a long way in deciding whether YouTube can be the channel store it hopes to be.
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 pull it off, 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 behind it all? It would be the most powerful app in entertainment, and it wouldn’t even come close.