A small cable company is going all-in on YouTube TV for video

YouTube TV | Illustration: Alex Castro / The Verge

Cable TV is on the way out, and YouTube TV is in for Wide Open West, or WOW!, a smaller US broadband operator with just over a half million internet customers and, as of March 31st, 117,000 households paying for cable TV.

The company said Monday that it would start migrating residential TV customers this summer:

The process of migrating WOW!’s residential video customers to YouTube TV will begin this summer as WOW! discontinues the marketing and selling of its TV services, including WOW! tv+, and sells YouTube TV across its footprint. WOW! will maintain and support its current video services as its existing base of video customers can switch from WOW!’s current video products to YouTube TV.

WOW! has been transitioning away from traditional cable since introducing WOW! tv+ several years ago, which is its IPTV service that uses an Android-based streaming box for on-demand video, cloud DVR, and a Google Assistant voice remote. The company also offers bundled pricing for streaming TV alternatives like FuboTV, DirecTV streaming, and, yes, YouTube TV, but this new deal would distill its video options to just marketing the YouTube TV subscription with no included hardware.

The presumed end goal here would be moving its customers off traditional cable entirely, which would free up bandwidth for the ISP overall. WOW! isn’t the only provider with a YouTube TV deal. Verizon bundled YouTube TV with its Fios service in 2019, and Frontier began selling a YouTube TV bundle with integrated billing in March, among others.

Streaming services have been steadily ascendant for years, and in 2022, actually edged out cable for most viewership by a few tenths of a percent, so the move to YouTube TV makes sense, particularly given the company’s successful bid for NFL Sunday Ticket just a few months ago.

Google said YouTube TV surpassed 5 million subscribers last year, and a recent analyst report pegged its total at about 6.3 million now, with months to go before the Sunday Ticket deal kicks in. Still, whether they get their TV from a streaming service or traditional cable, the number of pay-TV subscribers in the US has continued to drop and is around 75.5 million households, according to the report by MoffettNathanson.

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