YouTube Plans to Sell Cable TV Bundle (Report)

Its virtual TV would be called Unplugged, but it doesn’t have any deals in place, Bloomberg reports

Last Updated: May 4, 2016 @ 11:43 AM

YouTube is the latest streaming service hoping to be more like traditional TV.

Google’s massive video site is working on a paid virtual television service called Unplugged that bundles cable TV channels, and is aiming for launch next year, according to a report by Bloomberg, which cites unnamed people familiar with the plan. Although YouTube has no deals in place yet for programming, Bloomberg says it has discussed the plans with most big media companies including Comcast’s NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox, Viacom, and CBS.

A YouTube spokesperson told TheWrap that the company doesn’t comment on rumor or speculation.

Both Fox and NBCU are part owners in Hulu, which confirmed reports about its own plans for a similar service earlier on Wednesday.

YouTube launched its first paid tier last year, called Red, which unlocks exclusive content that mostly features the kind of digital stars who rose to prominence on its platform. By launching live channels delivered online, it would move Google’s site into direct competition with the likes of Dish’s Sling TV and Sony’s Playstation Vue, and would add top-shelf content from the media giants that have had an ambivalent relationship with YouTube since it’s beginning.

Bloomberg’s report added that Google has been working on such a service since as far back as 2012 and that it has overhauled its technological infrastructure to accommodate it.

Like many companies angling to launch virtual TV services, YouTube struggled to get programmers on board with the low price it wants to be able to offer. The company would like to sell a package of channels for less than $35 a month, but big media companies expect new entrants to pay higher rates than its traditional distributors like cable and satellite companies.

Earlier this year, YouTube business chief Robert Kyncl predicted digital video would displace TV as the single biggest way people spend their free time by the end of this decade, but he was careful to distinguish video distributors from TV programmers as he predicted television’s demise.

“When I say that 75 percent of all video will be transmitted through the Internet, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s video made for the Internet,” he said in an exclusive interview with TheWrap in January. “It will also be content from ABC, NBC — people who have honed their craft … I don’t think they should feel threatened — this is positive for the content industry.”