YouTube TV teases new 4K feature, offers free TiVo Stream

The TiVo Stream 4K Android TV dongle. (Photo by Matthew Keys, Graphic by The Desk)

Google’s pay TV streaming service YouTube TV is readying a new feature that would allow customers to pay more for access to ultra-high definition (4K) video streams.

The announcement was made in an e-mail sent to some long-time YouTube TV customers, one that included an offer for a free TiVo Stream 4K device.

“To ensure our loyal YouTube TV members have a great watch experience — including the ability to watch 4K content on our optional new add-on service coming soon — we want to offer you a free TiVo Stream 4K device,” the notice said.

Multiple YouTube TV subscribers confirmed to The Desk that they received the notice, though some complained that their ability to redeem the free TiVo device was stymied by website problems on TiVo’s end.

The offering was not unusual: Google has repeatedly given its long-term customers free devices and other perks in exchange for their loyalty to YouTube TV. Recently, the company offered subscribers the ability to grab a free Chromecast with Google TV streaming device and a Google Nest Hub at a reduced price.

It is the first time that Google has offered YouTube TV customers a device that was not developed by the company. The TiVo Stream 4K was one of the first Android TV devices backed by a big household name to offer content recommendation software, a move that was eventually mimicked by Google for its own Chromecast with Google TV hardware.

The Chromecast with Google TV is capable of decoding 4K video streams, so it was not clear why Google picked the lower-cost TiVo Stream 4K over its own hardware as part of its announcement.

Few other details were available, including how much the optional 4K streaming add-on will cost or what channels will support it. The announcement was made less than one week after Comcast’s broadcast network NBC said it would air and stream some of its upcoming Olympic coverage in 4K.