Looming deadline could mean NBCU channels go dark on YouTube TV

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A contract battle between YouTube TV and NBCUniversal could mean over a dozen channels go dark on the cloud TV service at the end of September 2021.

Google says it’s in negotiations with NBCUniversal and is asking for what it calls “the same rates that services of a similar size get from NBCU” in a blog post.

NBCUniversal is reportedly seeking higher rates for channels on the service including NBC, MSNBC, Telemundo, USA, Syfy, Bravo, Oxygen, Golf Channel, CNBC, NBCSN and regional sports networks and more. However, Google apparently isn’t willing to pay whatever NBCU is asking.

It was also later clarified that all NBC affiliates, not just ones owned by NBC, would go dark from the service in the event a resolution can’t be reached by midnight Thursday.

Typically negotiations like these are confidential and the exact costs are not disclosed. Most cable channels collect a fee, which can be as little as a few cents to $20 or more per subscriber from TV providers for each channel carried.

Larger providers sometimes have better negotiating power and can get lower rates per customer.

In addition, another point of contention is reportedly NBCU’s desire to bundle its standalone streaming service Peacock with YouTube TV. Peacock is already bundled with many Xfinity plans, which are sold by Comcast, NBCU’s parent, and gives customers access to the premium tier with commercials at no extra cost, though it’s not immediately clear if NBC wants a similar arrangement with YouTube TV.

YouTube TV, meanwhile, has fired back and let customers knows that if NBCU channels do go dark on its service on the deadline of Sept. 30, 2021, it will lower the price of the service from $64.99 to $54.99 a month, if the blackout lasts longer than a week and running until if and when it is resolved.

That’s a somewhat unusual move (usually TV providers don’t automatically reduce pricing or issue credits when a channel is lost in this type of dispute, though some will offer courtesy credits to customers who call to complain).

It’s also worth noting that the $10 reduction shows, at least on the surface, what YouTube considers the value of the NBCU networks to be. Depending on market, customers could lose up to 14 channels, meaning each one would reduce the cost by roughly 71 cents each.

The actual fees providers such as YouTube TV pay broadcasters varies per channel, however, an is typically based on the popularity of it and other factors such as how much ad time the provider can sell on its own.

YouTube TV has even gone as far to let customers know they are free to cancel their subscription at any time — and can avail themselves of Peacock to gain OTT access to most NBCU content that would go away.

NBCU, for its part, has fired back by running a scroll at the top of its channels alerting customers of an impending blackout and sends them to YouNeedChannels.com (that’s “YouNeed” as in “YouTube”) which provides various ways to contact Google about the issue.

Both scrolls and websites are common tactics used by broadcasters during these types of disputes.