Report: YouTube Developing ‘Unplugged’ OTT-TV Service

Eyeing 2017 launch as it tries to nail down programming deals, Bloomberg says
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Google’s has been the subject of OTT-TV rumors for years, but Bloomberg reports today that its YouTube unit is building a pay TV service called “Unplugged” that could launch as soon as 2017.

An exec with a top national programmer confirmed that YouTube has such a project in the works and has reached out about cutting distribution deals for it.

According to Bloomberg, YouTube is in talks with most major programmers and media companies, including NBCUniversal, Viacom, Twenty-First Century Fox and CBS, but has yet to lock up any deals. However, YouTube wants to offer a base service that costs about $35 per month, with options to add thematic tiers for smaller monthly fees, the report noted.

Bloomberg said YouTube has working toward a cable-like OTT-TV service since at least 2012, but said those plans have taken on increased urgency in recent months. Notably, the sector is becoming flush with OTT-TV options, including Sling TV from Dish Network, Sony’s PlayStation Vue, and a skinny TV offering from Hulu that’s expected to launch sometime next year.  Apple and Amazon are also rumored to be working on pay TV offerings, though Apple’s been running into a wall in its pursuit of a slimmed-down service that would offer broadcast TV channels on a national basis.  Meanwhile, other programmers, such as CBS, Starz, HBO and Showtime, have all launched direct-to-consumer services that are piped in over high-speed Internet connections.

YouTube’s interest in a pay TV service would also follow last year’s launch of its YouTube Red subscription service, and its large array of individual subscription “channels.”

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