YouTube Online TV service: ‘Unplugged’ for 2017
YouTube is working on a paid subscription service called Unplugged that would offer customers a bundle of cable TV channels streamed over the Internet, people familiar with the plan said.
The project, for which YouTube has already overhauled its technical architecture, is one of the online video giant’s biggest priorities and is slated to debut as soon as 2017, one of the people said. YouTube executives have discussed these plans with most major media companies, including Comcast Corp.’s NBCUniversal, Viacom Inc., Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. and CBS Corp., but have yet to secure any rights, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private.
YouTube, a unit of Alphabet Inc.’s main Google Internet business, is pursuing subscriptions for premium video to complement the largest ad-supported video site in the world. YouTube introduced its first paid subscription service, Red, last fall. Unplugged would bring more premium content onto YouTube’s web service and mobile apps, grabbing more viewing time and generating more non-advertising revenue.
YouTube has been working on an online cable package since at least 2012, one of the people said, but these plans have taken on new urgency in the past few months. Christian Oestlien and Jonathan Zepp are among top YouTube executives working on Unplugged, the people added. Apple Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. are working on similar proposals, while Dish Network Corp. and Sony Corp. have already introduced online TV services.
YouTube’s interest in a live TV package has been reported in the past, but this the first time the name and details of the plan have emerged. YouTube declined to comment.
“We aim to provide more choice to YouTube fans — more ways for them to engage with creators and each other, and more ways for them to get great content,” Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive officer, wrote in an letter to Alphabet shareholders last week. “We’ve started down this journey with specialized apps like YouTube Kids, as well as through our YouTube Red subscription service.”