Fresh on the heels of resolving its months-long carriage dispute with Roku, YouTube now finds itself on the other side of the negotiating table. The company today warned its YouTube TV streaming subscribers they may lose access to all Disney-owned channels by the end of the week if the two companies are not able to reach a new distribution agreement. YouTube TV’s current contact with Disney ends on Friday, Dec. 17, the company noted. If a new deal isn’t struck by then, subscribers will lose access to 18 Disney-owned channels, including their local ABC station, ABC News Live, The Disney Channel, FX, ESPN and many others.
This means customers would lose access to both the live streaming channels and the video-on-demand content, YouTube says.
Other impacted channels include Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FXX, FXM, National Geographic, National Geographic Wild, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNews, SEC Network and ACC Network.
In other words, failure to get a deal done will take out a large swath of YouTube TV’s programming lineup. The company says if that’s the case, it will try to make things right with users by lowering the monthly price for its streaming service. Instead of charging subscribers $64.99 per month, it would decrease its price by $15 to $49.99 per month for however long the Disney-owned content remains off its platform.
The company also said that while it hopes every member will stay subscribed, it will allow customers to either pause or cancel the service if they choose, as usual. But if customers decide to stay with YouTube TV for its other programming, they could access Disney content directly through The Disney Bundle, a $13.99/month subscription.
YouTube’s past negotiations with Roku appeared to be more about more than just the dollars and cents — Roku accused YouTube of asking for increased access to user data and preferred treatment on its platform. (Roku never said if it ultimately caved to those demands to get the deal done, though, leaving consumers in the dark as to what will happen with their user data!)
But these Disney negotiations, on the other hand, seem to be breaking down over pricing — as these sorts of deals usually do. In the past, consumers didn’t always know when companies were butting heads, as the deals got settled in the final hours and the service remained uninterrupted. These days, it’s becoming more common to see companies leveraging the power of their customer base — and their collective outrage — as a negotiating tactic. That’s what Roku did over the past several months before it settled with YouTube on a new agreement. And that’s what YouTube, in turn, is doing now, to some extent — in addition to making sure customers know the service pricing will drop in the case a deal doesn’t get done.
“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,” a YouTube blog post stated. “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.”
Update, 12/14/21, 4:25 p.m. EST; Disney shared the following statement with TechCrunch:
Our contract with Google’s YouTube TV for the ABC Owned Television Stations, the ESPN networks, the Disney channels, Freeform, the FX networks and the National Geographic channels is due to expire on Friday, December 17 at 11:59 p.m. ET. 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.