Google (NASDAQ: GOOG, GOOGL) is offering a new over-the-top TV service called Unplugged to offer TV lovers an alternative to pricey cable bundles, reports Media Post’s Television News Daily. Similar to DISH’s Sling TV, Unplugged will be a “skinny bundle,” giving subscribers a handful of live TV channels for a set monthly price. While Google hasn’t stated so publicly, media outlets estimate the price range to be between $25 and $50 a month.
Unplugged would be a streaming on-demand video service like Netflix and Hulu. Subscribers wouldn’t need to have a cable TV subscription to subscribe or watch Unplugged, but they would need an internet connection which some cable providers like Comcast offer. Television News Daily said that Unplugged would exist within the YouTube infrastructure, but it would be a separate service from YouTube Red, Google’s ad-free, subscription on-demand service.
Which channels will be included depends on who Google signs agreements with. So far, CBS has signed on, so Unplugged will include CBS Sports Network, but not the CW or Showtime. USA Today reports that Google is in talks with Comcast (NBC Universal), Disney (ABC and ESPN) and 21st Century Fox (Fox, Fox News and Fox Sports), each of whom owns a major network. If Google can secure agreements with those three entities, it will have the major networks covered – ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox.
Bloomberg first reported the news in May 2016, stating that Unplugged would offer more premium content than Red and help Google generate subscription revenue versus advertising revenue. At the time, the estimated launch date was sometime in 2017. Investor Place reports that the launch is anticipated in the first quarter of the year.
Reuters reports that AT&T, Hulu and Time Warner are all planning on launching their own streaming television offerings in the next few months.
Oh my! Do we really need another OTT service, much less four if you include AT&T, Hulu and Time Warner? Of course, any deal between AT&T and Time Warner could change how that OTT service looks, but regardless, there are already a lot of players in the OTT space, including major, broad-based SVOD providers like Netflix, Hulu, CBS All Access and Sling TV, as well as niche networks like WWE Network, Revry, Seeso and TuYo.
The market has become saturated with companies who don’t want to be left in the dust as growing numbers of cord cutters and cord nevers yearn to get away from their cable boxes and pricey cable subscription packages. At some point, the market has to level out and less savvy players – including those who fail to woo the major networks – will fail.
In the meantime, these subscription service providers can follow Netflix’s example by providing quality customer service, by being transparent about what they do and don’t offer, offering a competitive price point, and most importantly, offering original content or programming that subscribers can’t get elsewhere. Those who don’t follow this proven successful formula will not survive in the crowded OTT marketplace.