YouTube TV loses Disney channels in carriage spat


ABC 7, ESPN are off Google-owned platform

Just like a thief striking in the middle of the night, Disney has taken all of their channels off the Google-owned YouTubeTV platform at 11 p.m. Friday Central Time in a carriage dispute, leaving four million subscribers of the virtual multichannel video programming distributor pissed. 

Vanishing are seventeen channels, including ESPN, ESPN 2, FX, Disney XD, Freeform, ACC Network, and several others. Also gone is the ABC network and its eight owned-and-operated stations, including WLS-TV (ABC 7) here in Chicago, and other top market stations including WABC New York and KABC Los Angeles. 

And it’s not just the ABC O&Os. All 200-plus ABC affiliates are also off the service, regardless if they’re owned by the network or not. For example, if you’re in Rockford, ABC affiliate WTVO is also off YouTube TV even though it’s owned by Mission/Nexstar. 

ABC News Live was also pulled though the channel continues to stream on the actual YouTube site, apparently not affected by the dispute. 

And if you recorded anything from a Disney-owned channel and stored it on YouTube TV’s cloud DVR…those recordings were deleted. 

The 11 p.m. cutoff was a hard deadline, abruptly pulling the plug in the middle of what people were watching: 

“We’ve held good faith negotiations with Disney for several months. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we’ve been unable to reach an equitable agreement before our existing one expired, and their channels are no longer available on YouTube TV,” the service said in a blog post on its website. “We know this is frustrating news for our customers, and not what we wanted. We will continue conversations with Disney to advocate on your behalf in hopes of restoring their content on YouTube TV.”

On the other side of the coin, Disney replied:

“We’ve been in ongoing negotiations with Google’s YouTube TV and unfortunately, they have declined to reach a fair deal with us based on market terms and conditions. We stand ready to reach an equitable agreement with Google as quickly as possible in order to minimize the inconvenience to YouTube TV viewers by restoring our networks. We hope Google will join us in that effort.”

The impasse came with only a few days’ notice as on Monday, Disney ran commercials warning YouTubeTV subscribers they could lose their channels including ABC and ESPN by the end of Friday as both sides have trouble reaching an agreement. And for YouTubeTV viewers who are sports fans, this couldn’t come at a worse time as the college bowl season is already underway with three games scheduled for Saturday on ABC and two major NBA games on Christmas Day. Even more interesting, YouTubeTV is the presenter for the NBA Finals, which happen to air on ABC and if this dispute drags on through June, it would put the league and YouTube in an awkward position. 

Moreover, the impasse is an embarrassment as the service prided itself on being an affordable alternative to cable. Even worse, Disney came to an agreement recently with Comcast to continue carrying their channels in a new deal and reached an extension when the contract between the two expired on September 30 while continuing to work toward a new deal. Certainly, not a good look for YouTubeTV.

The silver lining for subscribers is they get $15 off their bill with the price dropping to $49.99 per month. But if Disney and YouTube reach an agreement, there is no guarantee the price would return to $64.99 with the likelihood the monthly price would go higher – something YouTubeTV is trying to avoid. 

[Editor’s note: An earlier version listed an incorrect price for a YouTubeTV subscription. T Dog Media regrets the error.]


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