Here’s another TV distribution fight that is escalating — and could result in a blackout: Google is telling YouTube TV subscribers that its current contract for Disney’s suite of networks is due to expire this week and that they could be removed from the service.
Disney confirmed that the contract with YouTube TV for ABC-owned TV stations, the ESPN networks, Disney channels, Freeform, the FX networks and the National Geographic channels is set to end on Friday, Dec. 17, at 11:59 p.m. ET.
“If Disney offers us equitable terms, we’ll renew our agreement with them,” YouTube said in a new blog post. “However, if we are unable to reach a deal by Friday, the Disney-owned channels will no longer be available on YouTube TV and we will decrease our monthly price by $15, from $64.99 to $49.99 (while this content remains off our platform).”
In its own statement, Disney said, “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. 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.”
According to Google, the internet giant is currently in active negotiations with Disney to reach an agreement to keep distributing networks on YouTube TV “so you can continue watching everything from your favorite teams on ESPN to ‘The Bachelor’ to ‘Good Morning America.’ … Disney is an important partner for us and we’re in active conversations with them and working hard to keep their content on YouTube TV.”
“Our ask to Disney, as with all 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,” YouTube said in the blog.
YouTube also noted that if the two companies can’t reach an agreement, “you can consider signing up for their own service, the Disney Bundle, which they offer for $13.99/month,” and includes Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus.
The spat between Google and Disney for YouTube TV distribution comes after a similar dispute between Google and NBCUniversal became public earlier this fall. The YouTube TV deal for NBCU cable networks and local NBC stations had been set to expire Sept. 30; the companies announced a new pact on Oct. 2. Google had been prepared to cut $10 off the monthly price of YouTube TV if the NBCU channels went dark.
And last week, Roku and Google finally settled their differences over distribution terms for core YouTube and YouTube TV apps on the Roku platform, more than seven months after YouTube TV was pulled from Roku.