Google Lays Groundwork for Streaming TV Service With CBS Deal

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Disney-ABC, 21st Century Fox and NBCUniversal also are said to be in advanced talks to bring their channels to YouTube's Skinny bundle.

Google-owned YouTube has started to piece together the foundation of its forthcoming live television service through a deal to carry a skinny bundle of CBS-owned channels, sources confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter

According to these sources, YouTube is eyeing an early 2017 launch for the service, which will be called Unplugged.

Disney-ABC and 21st Century Fox also are in talks to bring their channels to the platform, sources said. NBCUniversal is also in advanced talks about bringing NBC and its cable networks to the service, according to a source. The service will rival other virtual MVPDs like Dish's SlingTV and PlayStation Vue as well as Hulu's planned live TV offering. 

Representatives for CBS, Fox, ABC and NBC declined to comment. A YouTube spokeswoman said the company doesn't "comment on rumor or speculation." 

The Wall Street Journal, which first reported on CBS' deal with YouTube, quotes sources saying that the service, meant to be a low-cost alternative to cable, could cost between $25 and $40 a month. 

The service will be broadcast-centric, with sources telling THR that YouTube is looking to sign up two or three anchor broadcasters and their affiliated cable networks before launching. According to one source, CBS is looking for a rate between the $2-a-subscriber it gets from cable companies like Comcast and the $6 it charges for its CBS All Access over-the-top offering. 

The live-streaming TV space is expected to become significantly more crowded in 2017 with the launch of services from Hulu and YouTube. In August, Time Warner took a 10 percent stake in Hulu as part of a deal that included agreeing to make its channels available on the forthcoming live-streaming service. THR has previously reported that Hulu is in discussions with its three other owners — NBCUniversal, 21st Century Fox and Disney-ABC — though no other deals have been officially announced.  

Should YouTube launch Unplugged, it will mark the latest effort in an expansion for the streamer beyond its user-generated content. Late last year it unveiled YouTube Red, a subscription streaming service that offers ad-free viewing as well as YouTube-funded originals from top creators and filmmakers. Unplugged is expected to be a separate product from Red, although the WSJ reports that some YouTube Red content could be made available via Unplugged. 

Oct. 20, 9:16 a.m. Updated with additional information about programmers in talks to bring content to Unplugged.