YouTube TV, NBCUniversal Debacle Feeling Like a Harbinger
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If you are a YouTube TV user and like Football on Sunday Night, chances are you’ve spent the past few days wondering if you’ll be able to stream the game this weekend.
If you’re not the type of person who follows business negotiations between multinational corporations (why would you? I only follow them because it’s my job really), here’s an introduction: Earlier this week it was spotted- that the YouTube TV contract should offer about 14+ channels from NBCUniversal – NBC, Telemundo, MSNBC, Golf, and more. – is scheduled to end on Thursday. Negotiations are reportedly on the verge of falling apart, and if not reached by one company, all of NBCU’s channels will disappear from YouTube TV streams. It looks like NBCU’s YouTube company wants to bundle its own streaming service, Peacock, with YouTube TV. Meanwhile, the streaming service, wants “the same rates available on services of the same size from NBCU so we can continue to offer YouTube TV to members at a fair price,” according to a blog post. On Thursday, the companies agreed to a “mubu”Extension to keep NBCU channels on YouTube TV.
The result of this dustup though, is that it’s a testament to the fact that navigating running wars never feels any different than navigating cable. Or, as our colleagues at Ars Technica put it on, “The controversy is a reminder that the bundling customs prevalent on cable and satellite TV may not be eliminated with the rise of streaming services.” Streaming should have helped users cut the cord; moreover, it seems to just come out to replace the rope.
Yes, we at WIRED have SAYS some version of it before. Earlier this year, I argued that as media companies merged, consumers would eventually join another Big Three — that CBS, ABC, and NBC would eventually lose territory, say, Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, and Disney +. As there is still quite a possibility. But the new battlefield opened up on YouTube TV and NBCU fracas is one that is centered on carriers. The whole promise of streaming is that content providers will be direct-to-consumer. Do you like everything that is in Disney? Get Disney +. Love nature shows and home making? Getting Discovery +. But now there are so many services that desperate viewers and companies are looking for ways, in industry parlance, to tie it up-something that can feel like deja vu to anyone looking to make the difficult decision involved in choosing between standard or premium cable packages.
For example, Hulu. The service has been something of a powerful streaming game for a while now. But people have forgotten that it started as an effort by parent companies NBC, ABC, and Fox to offer channels on a service like Netflix. This is intended as a way for legacy networks to get into the streaming action. In 2019, after Disney closed its $ 71 billion acquisition of Fox, it already took control of Hulu in a separate arrangement with NBCUniversal’s parent company Comcast. Now, consumers can get Hulu in a bundle of Disney + and ESPN +, because, of course, ESPN is also an owner of Disney. There is also now FX on Hulu, which gives Hulu subscribers access to many of Fox’s premium content. A Disney, ESPN, and FX channel? If that wasn’t like one of the cable ties back then, nothing could be done.
However, here things get furry. As part of Disney’s agreement for the restriction of Hulu, Comcast has agreed to continue NBCUniversal’s license to Hulu until 2024, but NBCU retains the rights to return some of its programs exclusively licensed to Hulu. When Peacock launched last year, it argued that NBCU would later want more programs on this service to strengthen consumer appeal.