YouTube signs on CBS, in advanced talks with Fox and Viacom for ‘Unplugged’ pay-TV service

YouTube Red
Unplugged will reportedly be separate from YouTube Red, the ad-free video platform already launched by Google.

Google/YouTube have reportedly reached an agreement with CBS Corp. to add the conglomerates channels to the upcoming live streaming service Unplugged.

According to both the Wall Street Journal and Reuters, YouTube is also in talks with 21st Century Fox, Disney and Viacom about securing their networks for the service.

Dismissing WSJ and Reuters as if they were supermarket tabloids, a YouTube spokesperson told FierceCable, "We don't comment on rumor or speculation."

Unplugged will reportedly launch in the first quarter of 2017 and include all CBS broadcast network content, including NFL football. WSJ pegs the price in the $25-$40 range per month, while Reuters has it at $30-$40. 

RELATED: YouTube reportedly steps on the gas to develop pay-TV channel bundle, 'Unplugged'

Besides CBS, other CBS Corp. channels in the Unplugged mix are said to be CBS Sports Network and Pop. Google is also looking to carry Fox Broadcasting, Fox News, FX, Fox Sports and National Geographic Channel from 21st Century Fox; and ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel and Freeform from Disney. It’s unclear what Google wants from Viacom.

Google, which has been trying to get programmers interested in a live streaming service for years, will enter what is becoming a competitive space for virtual MVPD services.

Dish Network’s Sling TV and Sony’s PlayStation Vue both launched last year, with the latter honing in on a million users. AT&T is set to launch live-streamed pay-TV service DirecTV Now later this year with a price point predicted to be in the $50-a-month area. Hulu is also developing a live-streamed service. 

According to reports, Google is aiming to carry the Big Four broadcast networks and select cable channels — a mid-range play between the stripped-down Sling TV, which costs only $20 a month for basic service that doesn’t include networks like CBS, and the robustly bundled DirecTV Now, which will launch with more than 100 channels. 

In a letter sent to the investors of parent company Alphabet in late-April, Google CEO Sundar Pichai said, "We aim to provide more choice to YouTube fans -- more ways for them to engage with creators and each other, and more ways for them to get great content. We’ve started down this journey with specialized apps like YouTube Kids, as well as through our YouTube Red subscription service."

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