YouTube TV yesterday warned that it could lose all Disney-owned channels after Friday because of a contract dispute and said it will temporarily reduce its price by $15 a month if that happens.
“We’re now in negotiations with Disney to continue distributing their content on YouTube TV so you can continue watching everything from your favorite teams on ESPN to The Bachelor to Good Morning America. Our deal expires on Friday, December 17, and we haven’t been able to reach an equitable agreement yet, so we wanted to give you an early heads up so that you can understand your choices,” the Google-owned YouTube wrote in a blog post.
“[I]f 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),” the blog post said. YouTube noted that users can pause or cancel their YouTube TV subscriptions at any time and subscribe to the Disney Bundle for $13.99 a month.
YouTube’s statement that it wants “equitable” terms indicates that it is seeking a most-favored-nation (MFN) clause from Disney. “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. If Disney offers us equitable terms, we’ll renew our agreement with them,” YouTube wrote.
When contacted by Ars, Disney said that the contract is scheduled to expire on Friday at 11:59 pm ET and covers “the ABC Owned Television Stations, the ESPN networks, the Disney channels, Freeform, the FX networks, and the National Geographic channels.” Disney expressed confidence that the companies can avoid a blackout:
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.
YouTube settled disputes with NBC and Roku
YouTube’s demand for an MFN clause was also one of the sticking points in its recent dispute with the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal. In that case, the companies had to agree to a short extension to avoid a blackout when the original contract expired. One day later, they announced a multiyear deal to keep NBC on YouTube TV.
The YouTube/NBC negotiations were contentious partly because NBCUniversal asked YouTube TV to bundle Peacock, the NBC streaming service that has apparently failed to get many paying subscribers. A Disney spokesperson told Ars that Disney did not ask YouTube TV to bundle Disney+.
A recent dispute between Roku and Google resulted in the YouTube TV app being pulled from the Roku Channel Store. Google and Roku reached a deal to end that impasse last week, one day before the regular YouTube app would have been removed from the Roku store.