TV Answer Man, I am surprised although happy that YouTube TV came to an agreement with Disney so quickly. I thought it might last through the new year and we would miss the bowl games and Christmas shows. Why do you think YouTube TV made the deal so quickly? — Gerri, Statesville, North Carolina.
Gerri, you’re right. YouTube TV and Disney settled their carriage dispute just 39 hours after it started at 11:59 p.m. ET last Friday night. The new deal returned the Disney-owned 17 channels (including ESPN) to YouTube TV’s lineup.
The quick resolution has prompted speculation as to whether Disney changed its demands or did YouTube TV change its mind regarding the original Disney offer. Since the companies don’t publicize the terms of the agreement — or the offers made prior to the blackout — we can’t say for sure. But I believe that YouTube TV caved (if that’s the right word) rather than Disney.
Like other live streamers, YouTube TV makes it easy to subscribe and cancel its service. It’s one of the reasons why many cable and satellite subscribers have switched to live streaming services. You don’t have to sign a two-year contract to sign up and face a termination penalty of up to $20 a month if you cancel prior to the end of your agreement. (This is what DIRECTV, Dish and Comcast require as part of their promotional offers.)
To cancel YouTube TV, all you have to do is this:
1. Open the YouTube TV app or go to tv.youtube.com in a browser;
2. Go to Settings and Membership;
3. Click Manage;
4. Click Membership and then Cancel.
That’s it. And you can do it at any time without a penalty.
The consumer-friendly approach to both subscribing and cancelling undoubtedly has attracted many consumers, but it leaves YouTube TV and other live streamers vulnerable to carriage bullying. YouTube TV knew that without the Disney channels, and particularly ESPN at the beginning of the college football bowl season, it would be easy for its subscribers to cancel and switch to another service. The blackout could have meant the loss of hundreds of thousands of customers by early January. (YouTube TV’s rivals, FuboTV, Sling TV, DIRECTV Stream and Hulu Live, all carry Disney and ESPN.)
I suspect YouTube TV saw the beginning of a mass exodus in those 39 hours and realized that it had to make a deal. Immediately. Disney understood this as well and therefore likely did not change its demands. The programmer knew it was in the driver’s seat.
Until live streaming services require contracts, as some cable and satellite operators do, or implement some other requirement or process to make it more difficult to cancel, they will continue to be vulnerable when negotiating with a must-have channel such as ESPN. DIRECTV Stream seems to understand this.
I’m not saying this is good for the consumer, but it’s the reality of the situation.
Gerri, hope that makes sense. Happy viewing and stay safe!
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— Phillip Swann