According to several reports published Thursday morning, YouTube is developing a paid subscription service called Unplugged, which will offer its customers a pack of cable-TV channels for online viewing for a fixed monthly fee. The new project, upon which YouTube has apparently been working on for quite some time, is currently on top priority, and its debut is expected in 2017, according to informed sources. They also say that YouTube senior executives have already discussed the issue with the largest communication companies, including NBCUniversal, Twenty-First Century Fox, and CBS, but nothing is signed or etched in stone just yet.
Fixed Monthly Fee
According to those sources, YouTube will offer several packages of TV channels; one of which would include channels from four American networks, as well as a few popular cable channels, a package known as the “Skinny bundle”. For the service to be relevant and gain momentum, obviously YouTube has to put a lower price tag on it, and it seems that the price of such a package will be less than $35 per month.
Another optional package would include a collection of less popular TV channels, in order to create small groups of themed programs. For example, a “comedy package” of may include three to four TV channels, such as Comedy Central, similarly to sports packages offered by the cable companies. In terms of payment, the charge would probably a fixed, higher fee for the standard subscription, while the users would be charged extra for each focused theme package.
Unplugged joins Youtube’s Red, which the company presented at the end of 2015. The subscription program will remove all ads from the website for a monthly fee of $10. In addition to ad blocking, the ones willing to pay for a monthly subscription will have access to a few exclusive features.
For example, subscribers will be able to download content from YouTube to their computer without having to use third party programs, such as Youtube Downloader, which will allow them to view the videos without being connected to the internet. Additionally, the monthly fee allows access to Google Play Music, which means that practically speaking, the subscribers would get two streaming services for the price of one. In parallel, YouTube plans on creating a section of exclusive content, as part of an initiative called Originals, the access to which will be upon subscription only. The idea is to convince the users to pay for YouTube original content created by active creators on the website, similar to channels like HBO.
Getting in the game
YouTube is not the first company to enter the broadcast game by streaming cable TV content. Last year ago Sony presented PlayStation Vue, a service that allows users to watch live on-demand broadcasts from popular networks like ESPN, Comedy Central, Cartoon Network and more, for a fixed price of $30 per month. The service became available all over the US last month. Another alternative is Sling TV, a service meant to complement platforms such as Hulu and Netflix. Speaking of Hulu, on Wednesday the company confirmed that it is also about to enter the live broadcast TV arena, which may explain the pressure on YouTube to join the party as quickly as possible, before the users find their preferred provider and stick with it.