NBCUniversal’s cable and broadcast networks are still live on YouTube TV, after the media company and Google reached a short-term extension to their previous distribution agreement just prior to the Sept. 30 midnight ET expiration.
“NBCUniversal and YouTube TV have agreed to a short extension while parties continue talks,” an NBCU spokesman said in a statement late Thursday. “NBCUniversal will not go dark on YouTube TV at midnight eastern tonight.” The rep didn’t say how long the deal extension is for.
The contract fight escalated earlier this week, after NBCU warned YouTube TV customers they could lose 14 or more channels — including NBC local stations, Bravo, CNBC and USA Network and regional sports networks — over the impasse.
Google, for its part, has claimed claims that NBCU is asking for higher rates than YouTube TV’s pay-TV competitors pay. Moreover, the internet giant says, NBCU is unfairly asking that YouTube TV bundle in Peacock Premium with the service, currently $64.99/month, which would effectively double-charge customers for the same content (while requiring users to log in separately to Peacock’s apps).
Such carriage disputes over TV programming fees and terms have flared up for decades. But NBCU’s tying of Peacock to the YouTube TV distribution deal is an unusual proviso, indicative of the company’s desire to boost uptake of the Peacock streaming service. (That said, WarnerMedia, in revamping HBO agreements with pay-TV affiliates, pushed them to also allow HBO subs to have access to HBO Max apps.)
“NBCUniversal is seeking fair rates from Google for YouTube TV’s continued carriage of the only portfolio offering entertainment, Hispanic, news and sports networks,” NBCU previously said in a statement. “Unfortunately, Google is refusing to make a deal at these fair rates and is willing to withhold entertainment, news and sports programming from their paying customers.”
Google said that if it can’t reach a deal with NBCU it will reduce YouTube TV’s monthly subscription fee by $10 to $54.99/month for the period of the time that NBCU nets are dark. According to Google, it is asking that “NBCU treats YouTube TV like any other TV provider.”
“In other words, for the duration of our agreement, YouTube TV seeks the same rates that services of a similar size get from NBCU so we can continue offering YouTube TV to members at a competitive and fair price,” Google said in a statement.
NBCU launched website, youneedchannels.com, which says that if the companies don’t reach an agreement YouTube TV subscribers might lose NBC, Bravo, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, MSNBC, Oxygen, Syfy, Telemundo, the Olympic Channel, Universal Kids, Universo and USA Network. In addition, YouTube TV may also drop NBC Sports regional networks including NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago, NBC Sports Philadelphia, SNY and NBC Sports Washington.
Google’s YouTube TV, first launched in April 2017, is the biggest “virtual” pay-TV provider in the U.S., according to analysts. YouTube TV now has north of 4 million subscribers, per estimates by analyst firm LightShed Partners. Disney-controlled Hulu had 3.7 million live TV customers for the quarter ended July 3 (down about 100,000 in the period). Dish’s Sling TV posted 2.44 million for Q2 2021 (up 65,000 sequentially).
According to estimates S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Kagan media research unit published in mid-September, top cable TV networks have lost about $179.5 million in affiliate fees since 2013 from carriage disputes resulting in blackouts that were eventually resolved.
Separately Thursday, Dish Network said the AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain (ATTRM), AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh (ATTPT) and Root Sports Northwest (RTNW) regional sports networks were removed from the satellite TV service. Dish said the sports nets are “demanding rates that would be passed on to nearly every customer, whether they watch RSNs or not.”