Dec 18, 2021 - Economy

Disney, Google strike a deal following brief YouTube TV blackout

Photo illustration by Rafael Henrique/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Disney on Sunday said it finally struck a distribution deal with Google, a day after its channels went dark on YouTube TV.

Why it matters: The blackout, if prolonged, would've resulted in one of the most disruptive on YouTube TV ever.

  • The disruption came ahead of the kickoff to college football bowl season. Disney's ESPN has the rights to air many of those games.
  • Google launched YouTube TV in 2017 as a digital alternative to cable. In that time, it has only blacked out a few regional sports networks and came close to a blackout with NBCUniversal but resolved the issue shortly before a blackout would've occurred.

What they're saying: "We appreciate Google’s collaboration to reach fair terms that are consistent with the market, and we’re thrilled that our robust lineup of live sports and news plus kids, family and general entertainment programming is in the process of being restored to YouTube TV subscribers across the country," Disney said in a statement.

  • "We're happy to announce that we've reached a deal with Disney and have already started to restore access to channels like ESPN and FX, and Disney recordings that were previously in your Library," YouTube said in a statement. "Your local ABC station will also be turning on throughout the day."
  • YouTube also noted that the price for its digital package would revert back to $64.99. YouTube said Saturday following the initial blackout that if a deal wasn't reached, it would decrease its monthly price by $15, from $64.99 to $49.99, while Disney's content remained blacked out. YouTube said all impacted members will still receive a one-time $15 discount.

Catch up quick: Disney first warned customers on Monday that its contract with YouTube TV would expire on Friday at midnight. At the time, it said it was "optimistic" that the two parties could reach a deal.

  • YouTube also issued a warning, calling Disney "an important partner" and affirming that it was in "active conversations" with Disney to reach a deal.

Be smart: Disney distributed 18 channels on YouTube TV across ABC Owned Television Stations, ESPN networks, Disney channels, Freeform, FX networks and National Geographic.

  • Its sports programming was by far the most important content it distributed on YouTube TV, because most people buy live TV packages for sports.
  • Sports fans took to Twitter to express frustration with the blackouts, with some suggesting they may switch digital live TV providers.

The big picture: These types of carriage disputes have become more common in the streaming era, mimicking the cable TV blackouts that predated them.

  • Roku and Google finally settled a messy distribution fight last week after YouTube TV was removed from Roku's store for five months.

Go deeper: TV battles spill into streaming

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