Google CEO Mum on CBS Deal

But YouTube working to deepen partnerships with programmers, Sundar Pichai says

Google CEO Sundar Pichai wouldn’t take the bait when asked if YouTube has indeed secured a distribution deal with CBS.

“I can’t comment on any specific discussions,” Sundar Pichai, Google’s CEO, said Thursday (Jan. 26) on the Q4 earnings call for Google parent company Alphabet. “We work very closely with TV networks on their individual shows. It’s a big part of the YouTube experience. You’ll see us work hard to make these partnerships deeper and bring more content to our users.”

The question comes up about three months after reports surfaced that YouTube had signed up CBS for a coming OTT-TV service to be called YouTube Unplugged. At the time, industry sources confirmed that YouTube and CBS had struck a deal and that YouTube was holding similar talks with other networks, including Fox and ABC.

RELATED: YouTube Signs CBS to OTT Service

In the meantime, YouTube continues to forge relationships with networks and tie-ins to individual shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon.  Of recent note, YouTube and Syfy collaborated on a video campaign focused on driving awareness around the season two premiere of The Magicians.

“We will continue to invest that way and drive the premium content there,” Pichai said.

Google was also tight-lipped about subscriber numbers for YouTube Red, the $9.99 per month service launched in the fall of 2015. In November 2016, The Verge reported that YouTube Red had about 1.5 million paying subs as of “late summer,” and about 1 million who were trialing the service for free.

RELATED: Report: YouTube Red Has About 1.5M Paying Subs

“We’re pleased with the early success” of YouTube Red, Ruth Porat, CFO of Alphabet and Google, said, noting that the subscription service has been launched in five countries. “It’s still early days. It takes a while to build a subscription business here.”

“We are seeing tractions with the rate of sign  ups,” Pichai said, adding that the plan is to launch YouTube Red in more countries and to fuel it with more original content.

Alphabet’s results also offered an update on Other Bets, the unit tied to early-stage “moonshot” projects like Google Fiber and self-driving cars.

For full-year 2016, Other Bets generated revenues of $809 million, up 82%, driven primary by Nest,  Google Fiber and Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), and an operating loss of $3.6 billion, widened by 4%.

Regarding progress among Other Bets businesses Verily just netted a $800 million investment from Singapore-based investment company Temasek, and Waymo, Google’s self-driving car unit, recently “graduated” to a stand-alone business within Other Bets because it achieved the required thresholds toward a path to commercialization, including the recent intro of the Chrysler Pacifica hybrid minivan.

Other Bets pulled in Q4 revenues of $262 million, versus $150 million in the year-ago quarter, and a loss of $1.08 billion, narrowed from $1.21 billion.

Porat touted Nest’s performance during the recent holiday season, as sales of key products more than doubled over the two weeks that included Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

RELATED: Marwan Fawaz Named CEO of Nest

No new detail was shared on Google Fiber, which has temporarily halted expansion plans in “potential” markets as it refines its deployment and technology approaches and continues its pursuit of wireless alternatives.

RELATED: Google Fiber Pauses Expansion Plans