YouTube is reportedly planning to take on the likes of Sky TV and Freeview by offering live streaming TV through a new service dubbed Unplugged.
The service will be offered as a paid subscription service that would offer customers a bundle of cable TV channels to stream over the Internet. It’s thought that the service would launch in the US first however.
According to Bloomberg, the project is the YouTube’s biggest priority and is eyeing a 2017 launch – but the Alphabet-owned video streaming service is reported to not have a single cable network signed for the service as of yet. Despite that, it is said to be in discussions with all the big players, including NBCUniversal, Viacom Inc., Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. and CBS Corp.
YouTube officially entered the subscription-based market last year with the launch of YouTube Red – a service that offered offline playback and removed advertising from the company’s vast catalogue of user-generated content.
While YouTube Red has supposedly been a success for the Alphabet-owned company, it is still looking for extra revenue streams to plug the hole left by dwindling ad sales. Unplugged is reportedly the extra revenue stream it wants, with it bringing significant quantities of premium content to the service.
YouTube’s Unplugged project has apparently been quietly worked on since as early as 2012. If it launches in 2017 it could go head to head with services from Apple and Amazon, both of who are reported to be working on similar offerings. Like YouTube, they both have a catalogue of extras to offer potential customers. Amazon has Instant Video, while Apple has Apple Music.
YouTube’s approach to its live streaming service will reportedly be similar to Sky TV’s – by offering various packages that offer access to different channels based on the package bought. That’s different to YouTube Red, where one-size-fits all. That means consumers will have the choice to purchase only the channels they care about and not be forced to pay for channels they don’t watch – like a traditional cable network.
It will however offer a main bundle that will have a selection of the most popular channels, like CBS, Fox and NBC. As for pricing, the main bundle will reportedly cost around $35 – but that’s if YouTube gets its way. Content creators are reportedly not willing to give its content away at such a low price point.
Live streaming TV is becoming big business in the US – PlayStation has already launched its own service dubbed Vue, while Hulu, the online streaming service owned by Disney, NBCUniversal, Twenty-First Century Fox and CBS has also signalled that it is interested in launching live streaming.
It’s not yet known whether YouTube is working on a similar offering in the UK – a country with a bad history when it comes to online streaming services. Project Kangaroo was supposed to be the video on demand platform formed by the BBC, ITV and Channel 4 – but it fell through following opposition from the Competition Commission.