YouTube Working on 'Unplugged' TV Subscription Service for 2017 as Hulu Confirms Live TV Plans
Internet-based subscription television plans are growing in popularity, and YouTube is the latest company rumored to be working on a standalone television service. According to Bloomberg, YouTube is developing a paid subscription service called "Unplugged," offering a bundle of channels for a set price.
YouTube has already built the infrastructure necessary for the service and is prioritizing its development for a 2017 debut. YouTube has been in talks with major media companies like NBCUniversal, Viacom, Fox, and CBS, but has not yet been able to secure rights for the service.
YouTube is said to be aiming to build a streaming service similar to the service Apple hoped to offer before putting its streaming TV plans on hold. It would include a "skinny bundle" of channels from the four major U.S. networks along with a few popular cable channels priced at around $35 per month.
YouTube is also considering plans offering a collection of less-watched television channels or smaller groups of channels built around different themes, such as comedy or lifestyle.
YouTube would charge one subscription for the main bundle, and extra, smaller monthly fees for these theme-based groups, one of the people said.
Using this approach, YouTube could show it is capable of bringing new viewers to many of these second-tier channels, a major concern for large media companies that depend on TV for most of their profits.
If YouTube can make it work, media companies may be more open to including more-successful channels later, one of the people familiar said.
Hulu's subscription model will offer customers cable-style access to popular broadcast television networks and cable channels to complement its existing streaming service, plus it will include a cloud-based DVR feature. Hulu is also aiming to launch its live TV subscription plan in 2017 and is close to signing deals with partners like Disney and Fox. Pricing for the service has not yet been announced, but rumors suggest it will be available for around $40.
"This means our viewers will be able to enjoy live sports, news and events all in real-time without a traditional cable or satellite subscription," said Hopkins. "We're going to fuse the best of linear television and on-demand in a deeply personalized experience optimized for the contemporary, always-connected television fan."
As network executives grow accustomed to establishing deals for streaming television services, Apple may be able to revisit its television plans. Apple has been working on some kind of subscription TV service for several years, but executives have not been able to establish deals with content owners. Apple's latest streaming plans reportedly fell apart because media companies demanded more money than Apple wanted to charge for its TV service and were reluctant to unbundle channels.