Bulletins

A YouTube TV and NBCUniversal dispute comes down to the wire

The spat is a typical carriage dispute, but with a twist.

A YouTube TV and NBCUniversal dispute comes down to the wire

TV providers and media companies have had these kinds of disputes every few years for decades.

Image: YouTube TV

YouTube's TV subscription service could be forced to drop NBCUniversal's channels if the two companies can't agree on a new carriage agreement: Both Google and NBCUniversal warned YouTube TV subscribers earlier this week that channels like NBC, Bravo, CNBC and others could go dark on the service.

On Thursday, just before the negotiating deadline, the two sides announced they'd reached at least one kind of deal. "NBCUniversal and YouTube TV have agreed to a short extension while parties continue talks," NBCUniversal said in a statement. "NBCUniversal will not go dark on YouTube TV at midnight tonight." It's not clear whether there's a new hard deadline for the two sides, though, or when it might be.


The spat between the two companies is a typical carriage dispute, with a bit of a streaming twist: NBCUniversal is asking Google to pay what the company calls "fair rates" for its package of networks; Google on the other hand is complaining that NBCUniversal isn't making its content available at a "competitive and fair price."

TV providers and media companies have had these kinds of disputes every few years for decades; what makes this one a bit different is that NBCUniversal is reportedly trying to include its Peacock subscription service in the negotiations. If successful, this would mean that NBCUniversal would be able to add millions of paying subscribers to Peacock.

However, Google is also using Peacock as a bargaining chip. The company told YouTube TV subscribers in a blog post this week that it may lower the price of YouTube TV by $10 if it was forced to drop NBCUniversal's networks. Viewers could still access some of NBC's programming by directly subscribing to Peacock, the company suggested.

Media companies typically have the upper hand in these kinds of disputes, as people have few alternatives to access their favorite shows and sports events. But as networks move more of their programming jewels to direct-to-consumer services, that power imbalance may be shifting.

Update: This story was updated on 10/1/2021 with information about the extension of negotiations.

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