Well, here we go again. Less than a week after burying the hatchet with Roku, YouTube TV is now embroiled in a dispute with Disney that could result in Google’s live TV users losing access to ABC affiliates, ESPN channels, Disney networks, and other Disney-owned properties come Friday.
Google raised the alarm Tuesday evening on its YouTube blog, warning that “we haven’t been able to reach an equitable agreement yet” with Disney ahead of the December 17 expiration date of its current deal.
Similar to its earlier (and ultimately resolved) dispute with NBCUniversal, Google promised to lower its YouTube TV subscription price to $49.99 (a $15 price cut) if its Disney lineup does end up going dark on Friday.
“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,” Google said on the YouTube blog. “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.”
For its part, Disney (as reported by Variety) said that it is “committed to working with Google to reach a fair, market-based agreement,” and that it is “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.”
This latest carriage spat must have a familiar ring to YouTube TV users, who looked on last week as Google and Roku brokered a last-minute deal last week to keep the YouTube and YouTube TV apps on Roku’s streaming devices. That particular dispute had been dragging on since April and saw a variety of twists and turns until it was finally resolved.
YouTube TV had a concurrent standoff with NBCUniversal, which at one point demanded that Google bundle Peacock with YouTube TV while raising its monthly subscription price by $10, equivalent to the monthly cost of Peacock Premium.
Google and NBCU finally struck a deal in October that didn’t include Peacock or a price hike. But as the negotiations were still dragging on, Google pledged to lower its YouTube TV monthly subscription rate by $10 if it lost its NBC channel lineup, similar to its current promise to lower YouTube TV prices if Disney stations disappear from the service.
These channel-carriage disputes typically wind up working themselves out, sometimes at the very last minute and after much saber-rattling. But while streamers and content networks are used to the hardball tactics, the game isn’t as much fun for the subscribers stuck in the middle. Hopefully cooler heads will prevail before the week is out.