YouTube TV warns that it still hasn’t reached deal with NBCUniversal

YouTube TV today dropped an update on its ongoing talks to renew its deal with NBCUniversal — and the news isn’t good. “We have not yet been able to reach an equitable agreement,” it wrote in an email to customers.

If no deal is reached by September 30, YouTube TV will lose access to NBC, Bravo, CNBC, E!, Golf Channel, MSNBC, Oxygen, SYFY, Telemundo, The Olympic Channel, Universal Kids, Universo, and USA Network. [Update Oct. 1: The two companies agreed to a “short extension.”]

This is another one of those instances in which two multibillion-dollar companies — essentially Google and Comcast, which own YouTube TV and NBCUniversal, respectively — are going at it in public in classic he said/she said style. It’s hard to to tell which could be the unreasonable party. In the meantime, customers are caught in the crossfire.

Says YouTube TV in its latest communique:

Our ask is that NBCU treats YouTube TV like any other distributor. In other words, for the duration of our agreement, YouTube TV seeks the same rates that services of similar size get from NBCU so we can continue offering YouTube TV to members at a competitive and fair price.

It’s tough for those of us on the outside to put any sort of numbers on things. YouTube TV in October 2020 announced that it had more than 3 million paid subscribers. But it hasn’t issued any public updates since then. It could now have more, or it could have fewer. Hulu With Live TV, meanwhile, reported 3.7 million subscribers as of parent company Disney’s third-quarter earnings. Sling TV reported 2.44 million subscribers following its second quarter of 2021. So we could, perhaps, glean that NBCUniversal wants to charge YouTube TV more for its channels than it is charging Hulu With Live TV.

But that’s just speculation. NBCUniversal hasn’t issued a press release on the impasse, but it did spin up a full website — YouNeedChannels.com — and has been running a crawl on NBC affiliates alerting customers to the impending loss of content.

Should no deal be reached, YouTube TV says it’ll lower its monthly rate by $10 to $55 while the NBCUniversal content is off the service.

Interestingly, YouTube TV also is pointing its customers to Peacock Premium so that they’ll still be able to watch things like live sports, including NFL football and the English Premier League. Peacock Premium runs $5 a month and includes advertising on much of its on-demand content. That bit makes a little more sense if a (paywalled) post from investor research firm LightShed Partners is to be believed. As Ars Technica tells it, NBCUniversal was demanding that YouTube TV also pay for Peacock access as part of the renewal — never mind that Peacock is an over-the-top service that doesn’t really have anything to do with linear television channels. So it could be YouTube TV at least attempting to throw NBCU a bone.

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