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YouTube TV loses Disney-owned channels, including ESPN, FX, and ABC

Update December 19: YouTube TV and Disney have reached a deal.

YouTube TV and Disney have failed to reach an agreement for the former to carry channels owned by the latter, leading to the loss of some 18 channels from the streaming service owned by Alphabet, the umbrella company over Google and YouTube, Nest, and more.

YouTube TV first warned customers on December 13 that the two companies had been unable to work out a deal, and that channels would be lost after the current agreement expired on December 17. YouTube TV said that it would lower its monthly price by $15 to $50 a month while the Disney-owned channels are unavailable, and that customers would receive a credit.

“Our ask to Disney,” the official YouTube blog wrote on December 13, “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.”

Overnight into December 18, after the agreement expired and the Disney-owned channels disappeared, YouTube TV issued an update:

“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. We know this is frustrating news for our customers, and not what we wanted. We will continue conversations with Disney to advocate on your behalf in hopes of restoring their content on YouTube TV.”

YouTube TV on Apple TV.
Phil Nickinson/Digital Trends

The list of channels no longer available on YouTube TV includes:

  • ABC News Live
  • ACC Network
  • Disney Channel
  • Disney Junior
  • Disney XD
  • ESPN
  • ESPN2
  • ESPN3 (by authentication to the ESPN app)
  • FX
  • FXM
  • FXX
  • Freeform
  • National Geographic
  • National Geographic Wild
  • SEC Network
  • Your local ABC channel

The impasse comes just weeks after YouTube TV’s highly public feud with Roku, which finally ended with the two sides reaching a deal that kept YouTube TV on the Roku platform and made the YouTube proper app once again available for download.

But this latest flap comes at a particularly inopportune time for YouTube TV, as it’s the start of the college football postseason, with dozens of games scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN or ABC through the national title game on January 10. It’s also the time of year in which college basketball is in full swing.

There’s no telling just how long the Disney-owned channels will remain off YouTube TV, but the loss likely affects several million subscribers. YouTube TV hasn’t given a new count since October 2020, when it announced that it had “more than 3 million” paid subscriptions to the service. (By comparison, Hulu With Live TV just announced it had 4 million paid subs.)

In the meantime, suffice it to say that we’ll see customers head over to competitors like Hulu With Live TV, Sling TV, or FuboTV.

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Phil Nickinson
Section Editor, Audio/Video
Phil spent the 2000s making newspapers with the Pensacola (Fla.) News Journal, the 2010s with Android Central and then the…
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