Media contracts expire all the time. Sometimes, the content owners are willing to have negotiations and renew under similar terms. Other times, content owners have new ideas on how they want to use those rights themselves. Either way, it means that platforms and content owners have to negotiate rather regularly. This weekend, negotiations between two powerhouses broke down and YouTube TV lost all 17 of Disney's channels on the platform.
The change in the platform offering came at midnight on Saturday, with an update from the YouTube. The company stated,
We've held good faith negotiations with Disney for several months. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we've been unable to reach an equitable agreement before our existing one expired, and their channels are no longer available on YouTube TV.
Obviously, Disney controls a lot of channels on cable and streaming platforms. The channels involved here included Disney Channel, the ESPN networks, the FX networks, and National Geographic, plus local channels in several markets. This is a major loss for those who have subscribed to YouTube TV expecting it to act as a cable service replacement. Because of the major loss in channels, YouTube has been forced to change its pricing structure, removing $15 from the monthly subscription price. This moves the subscription price from $64.99 per month to $49.99 per month.
For those who have lost their Disney channels and want to access at least most of the content, both Disney and YouTube recommend signing up for the Disney Bundle, which will bring Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu. The price of the bundle is less than the change in price for YouTube TV, possibly giving an advantage for some users. However, without all of the live content and the single interface, it might not be ideal for all users.
Clearly, this is not about content - it is about money. Disney wants to generate more revenue from YouTube parent Google, while YouTube is trying to keep the costs down to keep the monthly fee down. YouTube is experiencing the same battle that cable operators have been fighting for years, except that small cable carriers get a lower carriage fee per user than what Disney wants from YouTube.
This change comes just days after the company managed to strike a deal with Roku, keeping the service on the Roku platform. In this case, the role was reversed, however - playing the part of the platform trying to maintain content, rather than the content trying to stay on a platform.