Google Starts Shaping Up “Unplugged,” Its YouTube-Based Pay-TV Service

Image courtesy of RiddimRyder

People looking to cut the cable TV cord will be getting more options in the months to come, with AT&T still planning to launch its DirecTV Now streaming service by year’s end, and news that Google is signing up broadcasters for the YouTube-based live-TV offering it hopes to launch in early 2017.

This is according to the Wall Street Journal, which reports that Google has made a deal with CBS to carry its network on the streaming service — currently being called “Unplugged” — and that the internet giant is close to deals with both 21st Century Fox and Disney (parent company to ABC and ESPN).

With a monthly price in the range of $25 to $40, Unplugged appears to be targeting some of the same audience attracted to Dish’s Sling TV — the first major entrant into this over-the-top cable-replacement market — and Sony’s PlayStation Vue, the first true attempt at a cable-replacement streaming service.

Sling starts at $20/month and offers around two-dozen popular cable channels, including ESPN, but not live network TV. For that, you need to ante up at least $25/month for a package with around 40 channels including live Fox and NBC (in certain markets) but not ESPN. To get all of Sling’s cable channels and the two broadcast networks, it will run you $40/month.

For folks who want streaming broadcast TV, Sony’s PlayStation Vue starts at $40/month, but can include live access to all four major networks. (There is also a less-expensive Vue option that does not include any live network TV.) Users can eventually pile on 100-plus channels to their Vue plan, but at prices that go up to $75/month.

The Journal reports that Google’s Unplugged will be based on the YouTube platform, but will remain separate from the YouTube Red premium service. The company’s hope appears to be that it can convert the countless eyeballs on YouTube’s free video platform into pay-TV subscribers, though it may not bode well that YouTube Red doesn’t have anywhere near the household name recognition that Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu do.

Speaking of Hulu, the subscription streaming service jointly owned by Disney, Fox, and Comcast’s NBC, is also reportedly looking into a live-TV option, but the logistics of that could be complicated given that, in certain markets, it would directly compete with Comcast for pay-TV customers.

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