Tech

YouTube TV gets ‘short extension’ to stave off disappearing NBC channels


Google’s YouTube TV is a live-channel streaming service. 


Sarah Tew/CNET

YouTube TV, Google‘s popular live-channel streaming service, was set to lose access to all channels from Comcast’s NBCUniversal late Thursday, but the two have reportedly reached a temporary deal in place of a new carriage agreement to replace the one that expired at 9 p.m. PT/midnight ET Friday. That means NBCU‘s channels — which include a clutch of cable networks and its big broadcast network, home to NFL Sunday Night Football — won’t immediately go dark on YouTube TV.

“NBCUniversal and YouTube TV have agreed to a short extension while parties continue talks,” an NBCUniversal spokesperson tells Protocol. “NBCUniversal will not go dark on YouTube TV at midnight eastern tonight.”

Google and NBCUniversal didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Thursday night’s temporary agreement means that YouTube TV won’t immediately discount its customers’ bills by $10 a month while the networks went missing. YouTube TV usually costs $65 a month, but the company said in a blog post that it would discount subscribers’ rates to $55 if NBC’s channels go dark for the duration they remain unavailable.

Both companies noted to their customers that the channels’ programming is also available to stream on Peacock, NBCUniversal’s streaming service. Much of Peacock is free to watch with advertising, and higher-interest programming like live NFL games are available with either a $5- or $10-a-month paid subscription. 

Carriage disputes between programmers and distributors are nothing new. For years, they’ve been a routine annoyance for customers of traditional cable and satellite TV. But up until about 2020, these kinds of service “blackouts” were one of the ways streaming set itself apart from the aggravations of television’s past. 

In the last year and a half, however, these battles have cropped up in the streaming realm too. The rollouts of new streaming services HBO Max and Peacock were marred by failure to launch on either Roku or Amazon Fire TV in 2020. More recently, YouTube TV has been in a continuing standoff with Roku. Since their their deal ended in April, YouTube TV has remained available to stream on Roku, but Roku removed the YouTube TV app from its channel store — meaning only preexisting subscribers who downloaded it before their faceoff can still stream YouTube TV in its dedicated app. New customers must watch it within the main YouTube app on Roku instead.  

Interestingly, the latest standoff with NBCUniversal puts YouTube TV in the position of the hunkered-down distributor; in its face-off with Roku, YouTube TV is the programmer planting its feet against distributor Roku. Regardless of which side of the dynamic these streaming services and devices exist on, these fights underscore how companies are agitating to get the upper hand as the future of TV evolves rapidly toward streaming. 

NBCUniversal’s channels include its NBC broadcast network, USA, Telemundo, Universo, Bravo, E!, SyFy, Oxygen, CNBC and MSNBC. 


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