A little over a year ago, the idea of a live streaming internet TV service wasn’t exactly unheard of, but it was still fairly novel — now it’s become positively commonplace. Hulu is confirmed to be working on a live TV package for 2017, and now it seems that YouTube is looking to join the club as well.
Google’s video goliath is reportedly working on a paid subscription service called Unplugged that would offer a number of cable channels, similar to current offerings like Dish’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue, Bloomberg reports. The report claims this is one of the company’s top priorities, with YouTube’s underlying architecture already having been overhauled in order to support it.
Discussions have already taken place between YouTube and media companies including NBCUniversal, Viacom, Twenty-First Century Fox, and CBS, but Bloomberg’s sources say no deals have been reached so far. While Hulu’s planned service is expected to cost $40 per month, YouTube would like to price its service starting at $35. However the content companies it will bargain with will have some say on the eventual price. Assuming there are no licensing issues — by no means a given, considering the troubles Apple has reportedly encountered — Unplugged is expected to debut alongside Hulu’s service in 2017.
The anonymous sources said that YouTube is considering selling its service similarly to Sling TV, which offers a standard base package of channels, with add-on channel bundles available for $5 per month each. This is a more granular approach than the tiered model used by cable companies and Sling TV’s current rival, PlayStation Vue.
YouTube has reportedly been pursuing online TV since 2012, or perhaps even earlier, but the sources say that these plans have increased in urgency in recent months. It’s not clear, however, whether this is due to existing services gaining traction, or the plans for new services announced by other companies.
While YouTube isn’t exactly starving for cash — it’s currently the largest ad-supported video provider on the web — Unplugged would make for a second source of subscription-based revenue. Last year the service introduced YouTube Red, which provides ad-free access to videos, offline and background playback, and music streaming, all included in one subscription.
With Hulu’s service aiming for 2017, not to mention possible competing services from Apple and Amazon, the internet TV landscape is about to get a lot more complicated. Fortunately for us, this also means more chances that one company will knock it out of the park — it’s just currently anyone’s guess who that might be.