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Google Play Movies and Music are releasing content late and it's driving me to piracy

Like all broke, bored teenagers in the 2000's, I was a pirate. Buying movies and TV shows online was prohibitively expensive and there weren't regular avenues to legally stream anime online. Then I grew up, got a job, and I tried my damndest to leave piracy behind. I pay for Hulu (opens in new tab), Amazon Prime (opens in new tab), YouTube Premium (grandfathered in through my Google Play Music family plan), and Funimation (opens in new tab), and I buy season passes when other shows have a good arc.

However, those subscriptions are only as good as their support and content availability is, and Google's tardiness is getting damn close to flunking it.

Purchased and perpetually tardy

Steven Universe had an absolutely insane arc this year, so I bought Vol 7 on Google Play (opens in new tab) in order to keep up with the drama. I'd watch episodes once they showed up 2-4 days after airing and be happy. The season finale aired January 21 and was up on iTunes and Amazon Video the morning, but it was still absent on Google Play, which I honestly expected. Google Play consistently takes an extra two to three days for episodes to arrive, so I waited.

Two days passed. Three days passed. At this point, I finally broke down and watched the episode in 18 pieces on YouTube, because if the official episode wasn't uploaded, at least the chop-shop versions were. I watched, and re-watched, and I waited.

At a week late, I contacted Google Play support. I was bounced around a few specialists, and the last one gave the usual platitudes about it sometimes taking a while for episodes to be uploaded by the networks. When pushed, however, the response to "Where's my new episode? iTunes and Amazon got it a week ago" was an unexpected one:

"My advice in this situation is to reach out to Cartoon Network and ask them to upload the episode to YouTube."

If a paid episode is uploaded to Google Play Movies/YouTube with errors or glitches, Google is more than willing to contact the network and get the episode fixed. If an episode isn't being uploaded on time, Google doesn't consider that a content issue and will not contact the distributors to fix it, even for season pass content that has been pre-purchased.

Late. You're late!!

At least with YouTube's popularity, most films and TV shows eventually get to Google Play Movies. The same cannot be said of Google's music services, where content availability and tardiness is magnitudes worse. Google Play Music gets many new releases at midnight like iTunes and Spotify for purchase, but it can take hours, days, or even months for new albums to arrive on Google Play Music's subscription catalog.

Things get even worse on YouTube Music, because yes, you do have an ungodly amount of music available, but the legal, label-uploaded music is absolutely unpredictable. New albums on YouTube Music might show up on time if you're lucky, but there are still a number of labels that will put music on Google Play Music immediately but only upload on YouTube Music weeks or months later over piracy concerns, which aren't entirely unfounded. Albums — new and old — are routinely pulled from the service and only some of them ever return.

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I spent last summer begging YouTube Music to give me the Disney albums I wanted to listen to, but until they did, I listened to what was there: the illegally fan-uploaded versions of the content I wanted. I didn't feel great about it, but without the proper albums and songs, users play what's there, and with YouTube Music, what's there is a decade of lyric videos, concert covers and straight album uploads.

Piracy will always be an issue that the media industry faces, and when the legal stores and subscriptions we use to support content we like — and sate our fangirl addictions — fails to give us the content we pay for time and time again, that urge to revert to our pirating roots gets stronger and stronger. And really, why would you wait for the paid episodes to show up later when the free, illegal one in on YouTube seconds after the episode is over?

Using free YouTube to lure users to paid shows

The industry has recognized and even sought to capitalize on YouTube's unique position on the border of legal and not-so-legal content to try and draw viewers back from "the dark side". For instance, the premiere episode of Star Trek Discovery Season Two was put up by CBS All Access (opens in new tab) in a bid to bring in new subscribers for the second season — and I really wish they hadn't because damn, it looks good and now I want to watch the rest.

There are many ways to encourage viewers to watch the content they want legally — and seriously, support your shows legally or they can get cancelled — but so long as Google doesn't care about delivering that paid content in a timely manner, it'll be a losing battle for networks, for the individual creators that rely on viewership numbers and digital purchases for renewal, and for consumers that are being driven back to the quick, easy fix of piracy when a content craving hits them.

YouTube Music: Everything you need to know!

Ara Wagoner was a staff writer at Android Central. She themes phones and pokes YouTube Music with a stick. When she's not writing about cases, Chromebooks, or customization, she's wandering around Walt Disney World. If you see her without headphones, RUN. You can follow her on Twitter at @arawagco.

21 Comments
  • Same! I was trying to find the SU episode for forever
  • Their own services are not interoperable. @googlemaps -> Only @Spotify
    @waze -> Only @Spotify
    Why don’t they just stop and call it End-Of-Life for the streaming services? Been holding off for so long hoping things will get better... but slowly and surely coming to the end of my patience. Patience will last till IO 2019 :P
  • My prediction is everything entertainment wise will move to YouTube. YouTube Movies
    YouTube Music
    YouTube TV
    YouTube Games
    YouTube Google Play is going away. That is my prediction.
  • This headline is an attention grabber: "Google Play Movies and Music are releasing content late and it's driving me to piracy". Then I looked at the article and thought, wow, we have a different definition of "piracy"... I thought the author was heading to BitTorrent streams and illegally downloading content. Instead, she's just going to YouTube...
    .
    Now, I get the fine distinction: if content is uploaded to YouTube without the publisher's approval, that content is violating copyright. But is viewing that content on YouTube *committing* or *resorting* to piracy? I'm not 100% convinced of that.
    .
    Beyond that, I do wish Google would upload content more timely. I also wish the app didn't require so many clicks to see the freaking prices for movies and different seasons of series in the different resolutions.
  • I torrented in high school, but why bother today when we have YouTube and dailymotion? And it doesn't matter if you download it or just stream it, it's still piracy, the only difference is that watching it on YouTube seems more legit because shows post scenes/episode portions on their own to try and draw you to watch the full shows legally (either purchased, streamed via cable login on network app, or through Hulu/Netflix/Prime), and because since you don't download it, you don't "have" the product so it feels less like you stole it. It's still piracy. It still sucks. And for most of us, it's still a necessary evil since we can't subscribe to everything, but I try to use it to encourage myself to buy episodes I like (for instance, I watched the leaked Kirin episode of MLP last year and then I bought said episode the second it was available on Play Movies because it's a great episode and I wanted to re-watch it in the future without worrying about it vanishing from Netflix.
  • I hate it😖😖 it should be way better 🤔
  • I've never had problems finding new releases from artists on time on YouTube Music. They just rolled out Opus support to the Xbox One App and fixed the playlist retention bug. So, I'm pretty satisfied now.
  • Prime video is doing it too I haven't gotten a new episode of Arrow in the past 2 months
  • The CW is showing them on their web site and app. They've the latest 5 of all their shows.
  • I finally gave up on Google Play for movies and series. I buy my seasons on Amazon now almost exclusively. So disappointing. This problem has been going on for at least a couple years now.
  • But Amazon's app for Android TV sucks, and that's my primary playback method. Amazon also just makes it harder to browse, even in your own content. Google Play Movies is laid out much, much better, but Amazon is faster. Too bad we don't have a TV Everywhere service like Movies Anywhere....
  • I love Movies Anywhere, I had a Microsoft credit so I got a movie from them at a huge discount, but because Microsoft Movies is really nowhere other than Win 10 which I use primarily, but i don't want to watch movies on my computer, Microsoft has Movies Anywhere so this film, now shows in my Amazon, Google accounts
    I am grandfathered into YouTube Premier/GPM/YT Music. I miss Spotify's recommendation engine although I found some good new releases on GPM. Holding out, but not sure how much longer, it looks like YT Music is pushing out updates though.
  • This is part of the reason I've started using iTunes more for movies and tv. Also along with that when I buy a movie on iTunes I get bluray content, not just the movie.
  • Yeah, special features content on Play Movies is few, far-between, and usually not up to par, but that's why I'm a Movies Anywhere girl.
  • A while ago I wanted to move to Google Play exclusively for movies and TV shows because of the wider compatibility (watching in browser, YouTube or Play Movies apps regardless of OS). After realizing the serious subtitle limitations of Google Play (one example is Crazy Rich Asians, which in the US store offers subtitles just in English, while in the US iTunes store subtitles are offered in 31 languages!), availability and even cost, I realized that I'd have to stick to iTunes. It really amazes me that for all of Google's power, they often offer such poor experiences over the competition.
  • Wow, subtitles in 31 languages? That's awesome. Not something I'd really need, but I do kinda wish that when you bought movies online they functioned more like the DVDs. I wanna be able to swap between the English and French language tracks (or the cast commentary) without it having to be 3-5 separate movie-length files.
  • I will never buy movies/TV shows on Google Play unless they are having some kind of sale or giving out freebies. They are a joke when it comes to that. Better to use Vudu or Amazon.
  • It may be the fault of the publisher instead of the delivery platform. Licensing deals are a mess, and it going to take consumer uprising to fix it. A few examples: * Disney pulling their content from Netflix in favor of delivery on their own streaming service
    * Select movies released to disc and streaming via one channel weeks before any others
    * Star Trek: Discovery streamed exclusively on CBS All Access (though after watching S2E1, no big loss IMO) And then there's the related problem of content being pulled after a limited time. Streaming is great until the production companies nullify most of the advantages they advertised. So many movies I thought I could watch, and yet they are now all gone.
  • Not just movies and music, this happens with magazines too. I paid for a one year subscription to a magazine, got four issues out of ten, then nothing happened. I had to call multiple times and really push before someone truly looked into it and acknowledged that the magazine provider wasn't going to sell anymore issues through them and give me a refund. I wouldn't pay for anything with them that I didn't get on the spot, in terms of content.
  • It isn't just Google. Your cable on demand for certain shows or even networks (FX) is often way behind.
  • Google is really pushing me toward Apple in terms of services. I'm seriously considering dropping Android all together. All the services I enjoyed from Google are going away and likely will not be replicated in the way they promise. YT Music for example is supposed to get GPM's 100,000 song music locker feature, however considering their competition dropped similar features years ago I wouldn't be surprised if Google did the same, and I believe they will. Also, they're about four or five months late in adding Android Auto support for YT Music. They promised it would be done in the fall of 2018, however today it is still not been fully added. If you ask Assistant to play a song through Android Auto it will use YT Music to play the song even if you were already playing something in GPM, however you still can't choose YT Music in the audio source list in Android Auto, and it has no other functionality other than playing music you ask for through Assistant.