YouTube TV and NBCUniversal are trying to drag you into their pissing contest over channels

Remember back in the day, when your cable or satellite TV service was suddenly inundated with commercials about such-and-such channels going away soon, and to call your provider to complain? And then more commercials from the provider would air, telling you to call the channel office and complain instead? They’re called carriage disputes, and they’re very much still a thing, even in the age of cord-cutting. Now it’s happening between Google-owned YouTube TV and Comcast-owned NBCUniversal.

NBC Universal is threatening to pull fourteen local and premium channels from YouTube TV if Google doesn’t pony up more money for its content by September 30th, this Thursday. At the moment it looks like Google isn’t budging: the company claims that it will lower prices for all of its YouTube TV customers by $10 a month if NBC removes its channels from the lineup. That would bring the price down to $55 a month.

The NBC channels at stake are:

  • NBC broadcast affiliates (different local channels in different markets)
  • NBC regional sports networks
  • NBCSN
  • MSNBC
  • CNBC
  • Bravo
  • USA Network
  • E! (Entertainment)
  • Oxygen
  • SYFY Network
  • Telemundo
  • Universal Kids
  • Universo
  • Golf Channel

As is usual with a carriage dispute, both companies are reaching out to get customers on their side, claiming that the opposition is unreasonable. Google put up a blog post saying that NBC’s lineup wasn’t being priced fairly, and announcing that YouTube TV’s subscription price would drop if NBC didn’t drop the dispute. NBCUniversal has a dedicated site up asking you to tweet out your indignation, among other methods of declaring loyalty to a media company worth billions of dollars. Sunday evening NBC started airing an annoying ribbon message over the Sunday Night Football game directing viewers to the site.

But this sort of thing is and always has been two companies in a pissing contest. Someone wanted more money, someone else disagreed, and now the argument has spilled out into the public forum in an ugly and distasteful way. This will be resolved one way or another: whoever relents and pays up, it tends to end in a brief blackout of the channels followed by an intense round of negotiations and a return to service. There’s a reason that networks like to pull this move while popular sports are in play: the NFL season just started, the World Series starts in a month.

If history is any indication, NBC channels will stay on YouTube TV. That would almost certainly result in yet another price hike for the service, which has been beset with constant increases in monthly charges ever since it was introduced in 2017. But the streaming TV landscape makes things a bit more unpredictable. If Google holds out and continues without the NBC channels, it will be the only major IPTV service in America to be missing one of the big four broadcast networks.

Whether or not the resultant drop in monthly YouTube TV prices would be worth the loss of those channels is a matter of personal taste. But whichever way this goes, remember: neither of these international megacorps is your friend.

Image credit: Chase Agrella, Kerfin7