Recently, Google launched its YouTube Primetime Channels service in Germany, making this its first expansion into a foreign market since its US launch in November. Primetime Channels enter the streaming market to compete with Apple TV, Amazon’s Prime Video, and pay-TV operators like Sky. The service offers individual subscription services and pay-as-you-go content, similar to Amazon and Apple’s platforms. Notably, it leverages YouTube’s wide reach and offers some ad-supported films for free, which it uses to attract consumers to access YouTube on their main TV sets.
The choice to launch in Germany reflects Google’s recognition of an opportunity in the segmented and uncertain German market. While Germany is one of Europe’s most profitable economies, it lacks a dominant pay-TV operator like Sky in the UK. It is likely that Google aims to fill this gap and expects its NFL coverage, starting in September, to attract subscribers and increase Primetime Channels’ appeal to larger streaming platforms.
In the US, Primetime Channels offers a range of ‘second tier’ premium channels, such as Starz and Paramount+ (though it notably does not carry top-tier streamers like Netflix or Max.) There is a challenge here as attracting smaller providers who gain exposure through a partnership is easier than global brands with at-scale direct to consumer operations – for the latter the decision would have to be weighed up against the cost of handing over operations to a rival vs. the ease of outsourcing subscription management.
For Primetime Channels, there is an opportunity to create a symbiotic relationship between streaming platforms and ‘organic’ engagement drivers; most pay-TV operators make clips of premium content, such as football highlights, freely available on YouTube. Primetime Channels would allow them to leverage this organic reach and funnel it towards subscriptions.
By deploying Primetime Channels in Germany, Google paves the way for possible expansion into other European markets. The UK, as the largest digital market in Europe, is a lead candidate for future expansion, and Google’s exclusive NFL rights in the US position it to potentially bid for premium European football rights, such as the Premier League. The German football league, Bundesliga, is set to tender its streaming rights for the upcoming cycle starting in 2025 early next year, while bidding for Premier League media rights opens this autumn. While a relatively limited move for now, Google’s German expansion with YouTube Primetime Channels could have major implications for streaming markets in the UK and Europe as a whole.