YouTube mulls offering access to third party apps like Showtime

(Logo: YouTube/Google, Background image: Pexels, Graphic: The Desk)

Along with cat videos and DIY explainers, YouTube could soon serve up premium content from Showtime and other third party services — as long as customers are willing to pay.

A new report from tech trade publication The Information says the Google-owned company is in talks with content distributors to sell subscriptions similar to offerings by Apple, Amazon and Roku.

Google already sells subscriptions to Showtime, Starz and a few other streaming services through in-app purchases, but that arrangement only involves payment processing. The company also offers access to premium networks through YouTube TV, its $45 a month linear streaming TV service.

This new arrangement would involve Google offering paid subscriptions through YouTube directly, creating a central hub for users already familiar with the YouTube platform.

The arrangement is attractive to companies like Apple and Amazon who take a cut of the subscription fee for themselves. But for Google, it could be an avenue to increase viewership on YouTube and drive customers toward some of Google’s own subscription offerings, including YouTube Premium, YouTube Music and YouTube TV.

Whether the move is successful depends on a variety of things. Companies that have partnered with Amazon, including ViacomCBS and PBS, said offering subscriptions through Amazon’s video platform helped increase revenue for things like CBS All Access and PBS Kids. But similar initiatives from other companies, including Facebook, failed due to lack of customer interest.

Still, the arrangement with YouTube could prove attractive to distributors for another reason: Subscriptions through third-party platforms could cut down on password sharing, which eats into a service’s ability to generate revenue. Customers are liberal with user credentials for a standalone TV service like Netflix and HBO, but may be more hesitant if those credentials are tied to their phones or shopping carts.

YouTube is operated by Google, a division of Alphabet, Inc. Showtime is owned by ViacomCBS; Starz is a subsidiary of Lionsgate, Inc.