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ESPN wipes its YouTube content, terms of new ad-free service forces move

It’s not every day you hear about a major network removing all its content from YouTube, but that’s exactly what ESPN has just done.

YouTube said Friday the sports network had to take down its videos because of “rights and legal issues” linked to the streaming site’s new ad-free subscription-based Red service, which launches on October 28.

We heard this week that YouTube has apparently been pretty assertive in getting content creators to agree to YouTube Red’s terms. The deal seemed to be along the lines of: Agree to have all your videos included as part of YouTube Red or we’ll remove them from the ad-supported service. Hardly surprisingly, and regardless of any reservations they may have had about the new service, creators representing 99 percent of content viewed on YouTube have signed up to Red.

Despite initially holding out, Disney, ESPN’s parent company, has also signed up, though clearly this has no bearing on ESPN’s situation. For the sports network, it seems that contracts already in place with various distribution partners have stopped it from becoming part of YouTube’s soon-to-launch subscription service, resulting in the removal of its content as per the agreement.

Visit ESPN’s main YouTube channel today and you’ll see that all of its videos have now been removed. The company had 1.7 million subscribers with more than half a billion views clocked up over the last 10 years. A number of the network’s associated channels have also been busy deleting content, with, for example, ESPN Front Row, TheNBAonESPN, and ESPN1stTake all offering the same “This channel has no content” message.

However, all is not lost for sports fans seeking ESPN content, as the removed videos, as well as new material, can still be found on the network’s own website.