Like Hulu and HBO Now, Google is looking to get into the business of live television, targeting a generation of people looking to cut the cord to traditional cable television.
In May, Bloomberg reported that Google was looking to use YouTube as a way to offer live television packages, and now the Wall Street Journal has confirmed that the company has reached an agreement with CBS to carry some of the network’s live programming as early as next year. Most important, however, is that YouTube would be able to provide live programming of CBS-owned channels.
One of those channels is the popular CW, which carries series like The Flash, Arrow, Supergirl, Legends of Tomorrow and Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, but it’s unclear if the CW will be a part of the skinny bundle CBS offers. Netflix and the CW signed a $1 billion contract this year giving the streaming service exclusive rights to next day streaming. Previously, that deal belonged to Hulu. In an interview last month, a CW representative said that all in-season streaming would be available through the CW’s specific app, but Polygon has reached out for clarification from the network.
CBS isn’t the only network interested in partnering with Google for YouTube Unplugged. 21st Century Fox, ABC-Disney and NBCUniversal have also reportedly been in talks to bring their slate of content and channels to YouTube. All three of these networks have also reportedly been in negotiations with Hulu, which is launching its own live over-the-top (OTT) service next year, to bring content to the streaming service. NBCUniversal, a subsidiary of Comcast, is an investor in Vox Media, Polygon’s parent company.
Back in August, YouTube spoke to reporters at the television critics association press tour and said its main focus was bringing original content to the platform. YouTube executives didn’t mention a live service, but said it was focusing and investing heavily in its subscription based, paid content premium channel, YouTube Red. Part of that process is finding new talent and pairing up young actors, dancers, comedians and filmmakers with Hollywood talent.
“YouTube is all in on original content," Susanne Daniels, YouTube’s head of global content, said. “We want YouTube to serve as a home to creators and creative voices who understand that YouTube is the future of content and is a platform with more than a billion viewers a month.”
According to The Hollywood Reporter, YouTube Unplugged will follow a similar route and executives are looking to bring on “two or three anchor broadcasters and their affiliated cable networks before launching.” The service will reportedly be broadcast-centric and act as a basic package for those looking to have access to some form of live television without having to subscribe to an actual cable service.
Reports estimate that YouTube Unplugged’s skinny-bundle will run between $25 and $40, putting it on par with competitors like Sony’s PlayStation Vue and Dish’s Sling TV. 2017 looks like it may just be the year of live-programming through over-the-top services, with Hulu’s live service also preparing to launch.
Polygon has reached out to CBS for comment on the deal and will update when more information becomes available.