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YouTube “Unplugged” TV service ready to launch; ESPN, ABC, CBS ready to sign

by Brandon Russell | July 10, 2016July 10, 2016 3:00 pm PST

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YouTube’s rumored “Unplugged” online TV service, which has reportedly been in development since at least 2012, is close to launching, according to a new report from The Information. Sources close to the project, speaking on the condition of anonymity, say several big networks, including ESPN, ABC, and CBS are close to signing on the dotted line with YouTube, which, if true, means subscribers can expect a wide variety of programming when the service launches.

While traditional networks will be part of a “bundle” package when Unplugged launches—allegedly in six to nine months—The Information claims YouTube will emphasize homegrown channels where deals don’t make sense. For example, rather than licensing content from a niche channel such as HGTV, YouTube can instead highlight the numerous channels across its platform that offer a similar focus. This would not only help highlight certain content creators on YouTube but underline how important and valuable this content is for the platform; many of the top YouTubers wouldn’t have been given the opportunity to have a voice at traditional networks, yet they have large followings on the platform, proving why YouTube is so important.

Of course, with so many other established online TV services already available—PlayStation Vue and Sling TV, just to name a few—YouTube Unplugged will be up against some stiff competition whenever it eventually launches. And with a rumored base price of $35, the service will essentially be on a par with the competition price-wise. Why jump ship from something like Sling TV when it already offers a similar value?

Similarly, The Information notes that YouTube Red, a subscription service that offers access to original shows, “doesn’t appear to be a hit.” “Not surprising, given that many of YouTube’s one billion-plus visitors a month grew up not paying for anything on YouTube,” The Information writes.

YouTube has thrived because of its community of content creators, cat videos, and funny mashups. Seeing it get invaded by more traditional programming seems backward but it looks like that’ll be the way of the future. Would you subscribe if YouTube launched an online TV service?

TheInformation TheVerge

Brandon Russell

Brandon Russell enjoys writing about technology and entertainment. When he's not watching Back to the Future, you can find him on a hike or watching...