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YouTube TV Has 5 Million Subscribers… Or Do They?

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Live TV streaming services have risen up as a successor to cable. The exact subscriber numbers aren’t always made public, but this week we got a peak into some subscriber data. YouTube TV announced in a blog post that they have 5 million subscribers and free “trialers.”

Based on the buzz you’d see around this story online, one would think this would mean they are the definitive leader against their nearest competitor Hulu + Live TV. A further dig into this story, however, reveals it’s a bit more complicated.

So exactly how many people subscribe to each live TV streaming service?

Amongst live TV streaming services in the United States, there are eight major players. Here are the most recent figures we have about their subscriber numbers. We’ll start with the smallest and work our way up.

  • Vidgo: This lesser-known live TV streaming service isn’t nearly as big as the competitors. The most recent estimates put their subscriber count between 25,000 and 100,000 in 2021.
  • Frndly TV: The last public data we have is from Q3 2021, when it was revealed that Frndly TV had 500,00 subscribers.
  • DirecTV Stream: The latest figures are hard to come by here. At one point in 2020, it had 683,000 subscribers when it was still known as AT&T TV Now. 
  • Philo: This budget-friendly streaming service had 800,000 subscribers as of the last available public data in November 2020.
  • fuboTV: According to the company, they reached 1,056,245 subscribers in North America for the first quarter of 2022 ending on March 31, 2022 and 305,000 subscribers for the rest of the world.
  • Sling TV: The streaming service owned by Dish Networks lost 234,000 subscribers in the first quarter of 2022 but still have a healthy 2.25 million subscribers. 
  • Hulu + Live TV: The most recent data we have from Hulu’s majority stakeholder Disney states that Hulu + Live had 4.1 million subscribers as of April 2, 2022. This was an 8% increase over the previous year but still marked a decline of 200,000 since the beginning of 2022.
  • YouTube TV: If you combine together the people currently signed up for a free trial with the people currently paying for YouTube TV, the total is at five million, according to YouTube. 

A look beyond the data

As you can see from the above figures, much of the subscriber data for live TV streaming services is scattered across different time periods and sources. It’s been two years since we’ve had solid figures on DirecTV Stream or Philo, for example.

And here’s the thing about comparing the two biggest competitors, Hulu + Live TV and YouTube TV- it’s not exactly apples to apples. YouTube TV offers free trials which range up to 14 days in length. Hulu + Live TV does not.

We don’t know exactly how many of the accounts included in YouTube’s five million statistic are paid subscribers and how many are in the middle of a free trial. 

Free trials are a nice incentive, but they don’t always lead to subscriptions. Some companies like Sling TV, Vidgo, and fuboTV have experimented with cutting back on free trials if not eliminating them altogether.

There’s really no way for anyone to know exactly how many of YouTube TV’s accountholders are actually paid members, and among those “trialers” how many will stick around unless YouTube volunteers that information. Which seems very unlikely.

What we can conclude here

There is a good chance that YouTube TV is the largest live TV streaming service. Yet most likely it’s by a much smaller margin over their nearest competitor (Hulu + Live TV) than their recent blog post suggests. 

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Matt Davis
Matt Davis
Matt Davis is a writer, entertainment critic, and content creator that hails from the Kanas City area. He has been featured in various publications, including and CNET. As the founder of Shall I Stream It? he has helped it grow into a multi-platform media outlet that reaches over 100,000 viewers each month.
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