Google, NBC Bring Dumb Cable TV Blackout Feuds To Streaming

from the consumers-lose dept

For years cable TV has been plagued by retrans feuds and carriage disputes that routinely end with users losing access to TV programming they pay for. Basically, broadcasters will demand a rate hike in new content negotiations, the cable TV provider will balk, and then each side blames the other for failing to strike a new agreement on time like reasonable adults. That repeatedly results in content being blacked out for months, without consumers ever getting a refund. After a few months, the two sides strike a new confidential deal, your bill goes up, and nobody much cares how that impacts the end user. Rinse, wash, repeat.

And while the shift to streaming TV has improved a lot about cable TV in general, these annoying feuds have remained. The latest case in point: Comcast NBC Universal is demanding more money from Google for the 14+ channels currently on the company's YouTube TV live streaming platform. Google appears to be balking, resulting in NBC running a bunch of annoying banners on its channels warning about a looming blackout, and directing people to this website blaming Google for not wanting to pay more money for the same content:

In a blog post, Google notes that negotiations are ongoing, but suggests that Comcast isn't being reasonable in negotiations:

"Our ask is that NBCU treats YouTube TV like any other TV provider. In other words, for the duration of our agreement, YouTube TV seeks the same rates that services of a similar size get from NBCU so we can continue offering YouTube TV to members at a competitive and fair price."

As far as annoying corporate feuds go, this one isn't all that bad. Google says it will reduce the cost of its overall service by $10 should users lose access to NBC content after September 30 (traditionally, cable providers haven't been willing to lower their rates at all). Still, you're going to be seeing a lot more of these kinds of feuds as telecoms, cable TV companies, app makers, "big tech," and even hardware vendors like Roku all attempt to battle for not only viewership eyeballs, but access to user data collection revenues.

The problem is, consumers shouldn't be the ones paying the price for two companies' failure to negotiate new contracts like adults. For a moment there it looked like the FCC might update its rules to force companies to negotiate in good faith (and more importantly penalize companies that take out out their negotiating incompetence on paying subscribers) but as a movement it generally went nowhere. U.S. regulators genuinely view these feuds as just "boys being boys," and routinely don't care whether it results in paying subscribers losing access to content they have, in many cases, already paid for.

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Filed Under: blackouts, cable, carriage disputes, retrans, streaming, tv
Companies: comcast, google, nbc universal, youtube


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 11:01am

    Good riddence

    Looking at the lineup of channels that would be going missing I say good riddence.
    I do not think I have tuned my TV to any of those channels in years.

    This is why a la carte needs to be a thing. With all these types of bundles you end up paying for channels that you never watch.

    Streaming has just become cable 2.0 albeit with a few more choices. I once tried pricing out what channels the family watches and compared what we currently pay for CTV. There was not much of a savings. The biggest problem is you had to sign up for 2 or 3 different streaming providers just to get all the channels we watched on a regular basis.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 30 Sep 2021 @ 11:04am

    Meanwhile, pirates have no such problems...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ThatOtherOtherGuy, 30 Sep 2021 @ 11:23am

    How shitty is the biz dev team at YouTube TV?

    NBC knows that Peacock+ is failing. They are just hoping to prop the body up for a while Weekend at Bernie's style.

    If I was YouTube, I would tell NBC that if their channels get turned off they will NEVER be turned back on. No way that NBC wants to contemplate the revenue hit losing YTTV permanently would mean to their streaming biz.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 11:50am

      Re: How shitty is the biz dev team at YouTube TV?

      Given how blatantly bribed congress is they would probably cry monopoly over the mistreatment of the poor overgrown conglomerate with wide spectrum allocations.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 11:40am

    It takes two to have a fight.

    Unfortunately it only takes one spoiled child to refuse to play, pack up their toys and go home and sulk.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      TKnarr (profile), 30 Sep 2021 @ 1:42pm

      Re: It takes two to have a fight.

      If they packed up their toys and went home, that'd be fine. Like the kid in the sandbox, they're gone and the rest don't have to deal with their tantrums anymore. No, the problem is that they won't pack up their toys, if the rest of the kids won't give in they'll go running to the "adults" complaining about how the other kids are picking on them and the "adults" won't do the adult thing and tell them that if they want to set the rules then go over to their own sandbox and stop bothering the other kids.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 12:01pm

    Bye, Bye

    I've got Youtube TV. Supposedly Google will drop the price by around $10/month if they drop the NBC channels. While I may occasionally watch some of the channels I'd rather have the money. I'd like the same with Disney/ESPN.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 12:25pm

      Re: Bye, Bye

      NBC was pretty lucky to be getting, apparently, $10/month, given that they broadcast their signal literally for free across the country.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    united9198 (profile), 30 Sep 2021 @ 12:04pm

    Dispute

    NBC, like other content providers, want to sell you their product directly and force you into paying them a monthly fee. YouTube TV is an attractive alternative to cable unless you can no longer get full content. "Free" TV is gone, now the battle is to maximize what they can charge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 12:21pm

      Re: Dispute

      "Free" TV is gone

      It's not. Some people lost access to marginal channels in the analog-to-digital transition; but most people near major cities can still get a good number of channels, especially if they can mount an antenna on the roof.

      And, of course, there are unofficial methods of access that still work and still give a better product.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 10:44pm

      Re: Dispute

      Free TV still exists, at least in the US. Just point an antenna directly at the station.

      Pity it no longer exists in much of small-town Canada, or exists with so many channels taken off the air as to make it unusable.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glen, 30 Sep 2021 @ 1:01pm

    And here I'm happy with OTA TV again. I've done away with cable except for the internet.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 30 Sep 2021 @ 1:10pm

    "[can't behave] like adults."
    ??
    This is actually typical of "adult behavior." Irrational, self-centered, greedy... everything we work so hard to teach our children--with actions more than words. Companies, governments, the PTA... you name it. Put several "adults" together in a group, and this is what you should expect.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mhajicek (profile), 30 Sep 2021 @ 1:49pm

    Found the problem.

    First wash, then rinse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 5:17pm

    There's plenty of free TV get a HD TV aerial , basically YouTube TV is an alternative to cable TV ,
    Since streaming has only taken off in the last few years its to be seen who will get a large no of subscribers and. Who will be the winners and Losers .. It took 5 to 10 years for the digital music marketplace to be established after a no of failed devices and online services were launched before iTunes was invented then music streaming services started
    One thing is certain the public wants easy to use
    services that can work on many devices at a fair price there will be more services eg free ad supported TV apps

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 30 Sep 2021 @ 10:24pm

    This is why copyright law needs to change so as to explicity prohibit anyone buying "exclusive" access to content. If the same content were available to all networks on a fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory basis, whenever one broadcaster gets greedy viewers would be free to tune to a competitor. End the monopolies!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2021 @ 7:28am

      Re:

      Funnily enough there are standards pacts that require "fair, reasonable and non-descriminatory" access to patents. They prove that such access is not the be-all and end-all and can still lead to problems. In this case, free/open source projects could not implement important standards because the "fair, reasonable and non-descriminatory" patent pacts only protected against patent lawsuits if a fee were payed, often on a per-instance basis, which the FOSS projects, being unfunded and unable to guarentee that all users would pay such a fee.

      It's not hard to imagine worthy streaming services that would find themselves in a similar posiition.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 1 Oct 2021 @ 11:37am

        Re: Re:

        "Fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory" never meant free, as that is neither "fair" nor "reasonable." In your example it is also discriminatory, since some people (who you don't like) are being charged more than others (who you do like) for the same usage.

        Much litigation has gone on to determine what renumeration is "fair and reasonable" for different essential standards, and the answer has always been less than the patent owner wanted (which is, of course, infinitely large) and more than the user wanted to pay (which is, of course, nothing).

        That you offer your product for free does not give you a right to force anyone else to do the same.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 1 Oct 2021 @ 1:12am

    This isn't why you signed up for YouTubeTv!!!

    Correct, they signed up hoping that these bullshit tactics would stop but here we are again.
    If they cut Google off and Google drops the price, they will have shot themselves in the dick.
    They will try to strongarm other platforms who just say no & drop the price of their offering as well as they don't have the same amount of content.

    And a smart company would then start pushing to offer true ala cart of the 14 channels, only charging customers for what they want & if they try another blackout game buhbye once again.

    There is much more content out there that the streamers can tap into, they aren't like cable or OTA providers who are held hostage in these negotiations.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    EGF Tech Man (profile), 1 Oct 2021 @ 9:38am

    Local NBC Station

    Would all NBC affiliates be removed from YTTV or just the owned and operated ones?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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