YouTube is entering the online TV landscape. Bloomberg News reports that the company is working on a subscription-based streaming service called "Unplugged" that would let customers stream a bundle of cable channels. YouTube has been working on such a product since 2012, according to the report, but has ramped up efforts recently as other companies including Dish, Sony, and now Hulu have launched or plan to deliver premium internet TV offerings. The current goal is to launch Unplugged in 2017, and YouTube has already made behind-the-scenes infrastructure changes to meet that target.
Talks have been ongoing with all the big content players — NBCUniversal, CBS, Twenty-First Century Fox, and Viacom — but so far YouTube has been unable to lock down deals with any of them, the report says. This is the same sort of roadblock that led Apple to pause on its own web TV plans. But companies like Sling have been able to piece together so-called "skinny bundles" for rates starting at $20 per month. YouTube is aiming to price Unplugged at under $35 monthly, according to Bloomberg News.
It sounds similar to Sling TV in other ways, as well. YouTube is apparently considering selling "theme" packs of additional, less-watched channels as add-ons to a primary bundle. Dish is already doing that with Sling, offering extra content for specific categories like kids, sports, and news. But selling a service based on second-tier programming probably isn't the best strategy. It's likely that YouTube is considering many different options for how best to bring Unplugged to market.
This paid service would be yet another source of revenue for YouTube on top of the ad-supported main site and premium YouTube Red subscription service launched last fall. The Red product offers exclusive access to videos from popular YouTubers, but it's not anything that approaches cable TV. The Verge has reached out to YouTube and parent company Google for comment.