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Video/Media

YouTube TV warns that Disney channels might go dark

Another battle between a top virtual multichannel video programming distributor (vMVPD) and a major programmer is brewing.

The latest: YouTube TV warned customers Monday that all Disney-owned channels, including ABC, FX, Disney Channel and ESPN, will go dark on YouTube TV starting December 17 if a new carriage deal is not reached.

YouTube TV will lose access to Disney-owned networks, such as ABC, if a new deal is not reached.  
(Image source: YouTube TV)
YouTube TV will lose access to Disney-owned networks, such as ABC, if a new deal is not reached.
(Image source: YouTube TV)

Absent a new deal, YouTube TV said it will cut its monthly price by $15 – from $64.99 to $49.99 while Disney content remains off its platform.

It would be a sizable loss of content for YouTube TV, which just notched a deal to get the service distributed on Comcast's Xfinity Flex platform and new family of XClass TVs.

Channels and related VoD content that would be lost if the current deal expires includes: local ABC channels, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic, National Geographic Wild, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3 (by authentication to the ESPN app), ESPNU, ESPNEWS, SEC Network and ACC Network.

Both sides are talking but apparently can't come to terms on new rates.

"We are now in negotiations with Disney to continue distributing their content on YouTube TV. Our deal will expire on Friday, December 17, 2021. We have not yet been able to reach an equitable agreement, so we want to give you a heads-up so that you can understand your choices," YouTube TV told subscribers.

"Our ask of Disney, as with all of our partners, is to treat YouTube TV like any other TV provider – by offering us the same rates that services of a similar size pay, across Disney's channels for as long as we carry them."


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Disney confirmed the date and time its current contract with YouTube TV, which has about 4 million subscribers, is set to expire.

"Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution has a highly successful track record of negotiating such agreements with providers of all types and sizes across the country and is committed to working with Google to reach a fair, market-based agreement," Disney said in a statement to Light Reading.

"We are optimistic that we can reach a deal and continue to provide their YouTube TV customers with our live sporting events and news coverage plus kids, family and general entertainment programming."

YouTube TV noted that if a new deal isn't reached in time, customers can still stream "some" Disney content with a bundle that includes Disney+, Hulu's SVoD service and ESPN+, for $13.99.

YouTube TV, of course, neglected to make mention of Hulu's Live + TV service that has access to Disney-owned networks such as ESPN and ABC. Disney took full operational control of Hulu in 2019.

Another high-profile streaming battle

The impasse and the threat of a blackout is just the latest distribution skirmish to surface in the streaming era of pay-TV.

Google is just coming off a months-long standoff with Roku involving YouTube TV and the core YouTube service, with both sides finally striking a new deal last week.

Meanwhile, Roku and Charter Communications recently inked a new deal that reopened access to Charter's pay-TV streaming app on the Roku channel store.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

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