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YouTube TV recovering after apparent licensing error causes outage

YouTube TV — the most popular livestreaming service in the U.S. — is having some major hiccups early Tuesday evening.

The service, which sports more than 5 million subscribers, was coming up empty for many as of 6 p.m. ET. The channel guide was live. But choose a show and you’d get nothing but a blank screen. The culprit appeared to be some sort of licensing error across multiple devices, and we started to see channels return around 7:25 p.m. ET.

YouTube TV acknowledged the outage on Twitter.

if you’re having trouble watching @YouTubeTV rn, we’re currently having some ~technical issues~ BUT we’re working on a fix!! stay tuned 📺

— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) September 6, 2022

The Team YouTube Twitter account noted that it’s “working on a fix,” which could mean that service will be restored sooner rather than later. But no ETA was given. DownDetector, which tracks user reports of website outages, showed a large spike of YouTube outages early Tuesday evening.

A post on on the status page of competing service Philo (as spotted on Reddit), which also appears to be affected, points toward an outage in Google’s Widevine DRM service that started about 6 p.m. ET. According to its website, Widevine “provides the capability to license, securely distribute. and protect playback of content on any consumer device.” In other words, exactly the sort of thing a streaming service would need — and also the sort of thing that could single-handedly take down an entirely streaming service.

It also appeared that not every channel on YouTube TV was affected. We were able to view some channels — including local broadcast affiliates. Others went blank before a playback error appeared on screen.

YouTube TV playback error.
A playback error seen on YouTube TV about 7 p.m. ET on Tuesday, September 6, 2022. Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

The outage comes the same day YouTube TV announced that it now supports 5.1 surround sound on Apple TV, though there’s no indication of any correlation.

There’s no streaming service (or web service of any kind, really) that’s never seen an outage, and YouTube TV has been party to some fairly major outages in the past. But now that it’s the biggest streaming service in the country — with about a million more sub scribers than Hulu With Live TV — any outage is going to be that much og a bigger deal.

YouTube TV itself costs $65 a month for about 100 channels. It’s available on every major streaming platform, including Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Apple TV, Android TV, Chromecast with Google TV, various smart TVs, gaming consoles, and in a web browser.

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