Disney, Google Reach Deal for YouTube TV

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Disney and Google said they reached a deal to restore ESPN, ABC and other channels to YouTube TV, two days after a contract dispute knocked them off the streamer.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Google said the price for YouTube TV would remain $64.99/month with the Disney renewal but that it would still grant the $15 credit to users that it promised when the networks went dark Friday night after the companies had failed to reach a new deal.

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Analysts estimate YouTube TV has more than 4 million subscribers in the U.S. — so both sides were motivated to find a quick resolution to the standoff. YouTube TV faced mounting subscriber losses while the Disney nets were dark (and undoubtedly already suffered a wave of angry cancellations), while Disney stood to lose advertising and carriage-fee revenue each passing day.

“We have already started to restore access to Disney networks like ESPN and FX, including their live and on-demand content, as well as any recordings that were previously in your [DVR] Library,” YouTube said Sunday. “We will also be turning on the local ABC stations over the course of the day.”

“As we promised a $15 discount while the Disney content remained off platform, we will still honor a one-time credit for all impacted Base Plan members,” YouTube said.

In a statement Sunday, Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution said, “We are pleased to announce that after a brief disruption, we have reached a new distribution agreement with Google’s YouTube TV for continued carriage of our portfolio of networks. 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.”

When their previous deal for Disney-owned networks expired at midnight ET on Dec. 17, Disney and Google were still at odds over carriage fees. That resulted in the removal of Disney’s dozen-plus cable networks and ABC-owned local stations from YouTube TV. Customers also lost access to DVR recordings of Disney programming with the blackout.

TV blackouts due to contract disputes have become increasingly common. In 2020, there were a record 342 blackouts of networks on pay-TV services compared with 278 in 2019, according to the American Television Alliance (ATVA), a trade group representing cable, satellite and telco TV providers.

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