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YouTube TV, NBCUniversal reach new carriage deal, keeping NBC, MSNBC, Bravo on the air

Jimmy Fallon sits in his basement, wearing a blue and white striped sweater.
YouTube TV subscribers will continue to have access to NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon” and other shows.
(27th Annual SAG Awards/Getty Images for WarnerMedia)

Google’s YouTube TV and NBCUniversal announced Saturday that they had finalized a new carriage agreement that will keep 14 NBCUniversal television channels — including NBC, MSNBC, Bravo, E! and Telemundo — available to YouTube TV subscribers.

“We’re thrilled to share that we’ve reached a deal to continue carrying the full NBCUniversal portfolio of channels,” YouTube said Saturday morning in a blog post.

“YouTube TV will continue to offer 85+ networks for $64.99,” YouTube TV said. “We appreciate NBCUniversal’s willingness to work toward an agreement, and we also appreciate your patience as we negotiated with them on your behalf.”

The deal averts a blackout of such shows as “The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills” on Bravo, “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC and NBC’s “The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon,” “NBC Nightly News With Lester Holt” and “Sunday Night Football.”

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“We are thrilled to have reached a deal with YouTube TV and can continue to offer our full network portfolio, without interruption,” NBCUniversal said in a statement. “YouTube is a valued partner and we never want to involve our fans in a dispute, but we felt obligated to let them know what was at stake. We thank our viewers for their loyalty and promise to continue bringing them the networks and programs they love.”

The two sides had been facing a Thursday night deadline to hammer out a new distribution pact, and earlier in the week, the two companies alerted consumers about a possible blackout. Amid the public messaging campaign, there was a breakthrough in the talks, and NBCUniversal said Thursday night that it had granted a short-term extension in the original deadline.

Earlier in the week it appeared that YouTube TV might lose the legal rights to carry the channels owned by NBCUniversal, including regional sports channels and NBC network-affiliated stations. Google, which owns YouTube TV, had been balking at NBCUniversal’s demands for higher fees.

The two sides did not disclose terms of the new carriage deal Saturday.

The skirmish between the two media giants is the latest flare-up in the television industry’s long-running carriage fee wars.

An outage of NBCUniversal channels on YouTube TV would have been a major disruption for subscribers to the popular 4-year-old linear channel service, which has about 4 million subscribers, according to analysts’ estimates.

“If NBCU offers us equitable terms, we’ll renew our agreement with them,” YouTube TV said in a blog post earlier this week. “NBCU is an important partner for us.”

Amid a migration of traditional subscribers, television channel owners, including NBCUniversal, have been raising the fees they charge distributors in an effort to keep their TV channels highly profitable. These companies argue that programming costs, particularly for sports, have skyrocketed — and they need to increase revenue to cover rising expenses.

But TV distributors in recent years have bristled at the constant fee increases, arguing that TV programmers are making a difficult situation even worse by contributing to the escalating subscription fees that irritate consumers. The distributors have claimed the programmers are inadvertently helping to chase away valuable customers.

“The prevalence of cord-cutting in the U.S. and the persistent decline in cable network viewership complicate carriage agreements,” analysts with the research firm S&P Global Market Intelligence wrote in a September report. “Traditional multichannel operators face weakening demand due to the rise of over-the-top platforms, but cable programmers continue to ask for affiliate rate hikes to keep their linear businesses afloat.”

San Francisco Giants players Buster Posey and Brandon Crawford at Dodger Stadium in May.
NBCUniversal owns a regional sports channel in Northern California that carries San Francisco Giants baseball games. Pictured are Brandon Crawford and Buster Posey of the Giants.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

NBCUniversal has used its leverage as one of the industry’s biggest owners of television channels to raise its fees. It also is one of the few major media companies that own Spanish-language channels.

“NBCUniversal is seeking fair rates from Google for YouTube TV’s continued carriage of the only portfolio offering entertainment, Hispanic, news and sports networks,” the Comcast Corp.-owned media company said in a statement earlier in the week.

On Thursday, satellite TV giant Dish Networks announced that it had removed from its service three AT&T-owned regional sports networks: AT&T SportsNet Rocky Mountain, which carries Colorado Rockies games; AT&T SportsNet Pittsburgh, which carries Pittsburgh Pirates games; and Root Sports Northwest, which carries the Seattle Mariners and the Portland Timbers.

“The current [regional sports network] model is fundamentally broken,” Brian Neylon, group president of Dish TV, said in the company’s statement. “This model requires nearly all customers to pay for RSNs when only a small percentage of customers actually watch them.”


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