YouTube TV subscribers who rely on the service to stream regional sports coverage from Fox will now have to find their content elsewhere, as the service says a disagreement with its parent company has resulted in it dropping Fox Regional Sports and Yankee Entertainment and Sports Network programming.
A spokesperson for YouTube told Gizmodo in an emailed statement that despite its “best efforts,” the company was unable to reach an agreement with distributor Sinclair Broadcast Group to continue streaming content from both channels beginning February 29. The company added that “users will no longer be able to watch live, on demand, or recorded content from these networks.”
“We don’t take this decision lightly, and will continue to do our best to make YouTube TV a best-in-class experience,” the spokesperson said. On Twitter, the company took an additional shot at Sinclair by claiming the issue “is a reflection of the rising cost of sports content. You may have noticed several other TV services have also decided to remove Fox Regional Sports Networks from their lineups.”
Sinclair did not immediately return a request for comment. However, in a statement to the Verge, a spokesperson for Sinclair said the company “offered YouTube TV the best terms under which their competitors carry our regional sports networks.” Sinclair further claimed YouTube TV “alone decided to drop these channels despite our offer to actually lower the fees they pay us,” adding that YouTube TV hadn’t responded to a short-term extension offer while negotiations continued.
Meanwhile, the YES Network—which streams content for the New York Yankees, New York City FC, and the Brooklyn Nets, among others—posted a notice on its website urging users to switch to alternative streaming services like Hulu + Live TV or AT&T TV Now for its sports programming. YES Network said it’s possible a resolution could be reached with YouTube TV before Saturday but that “based on the discussions we have had to date, we are not optimistic.”
Disagreements like these are not uncommon. Sinclair, in particular, has a habit of trying to squeeze streaming services—as with CBS programming on Hulu back in 2018—and engaging in public standoffs over contract negotiations, as it did during a dispute with AT&T last year over some NFL and college football programming.
YouTube TV, which costs $50 per month, offers live TV streaming from more than 70 channels, including national and regional network coverage. Perks like unlimited DVR storage and HD and simultaneous streaming are some of the perks that YouTube TV touts to differentiate its service from those of its competitors. While certainly not the only content offered by YouTube TV, this regional sports coverage appears to be a primary selling point for a number of users responding to YouTube’s announcement on Twitter as well as users on Reddit—many of whom said they’d be canceling their subscriptions or switching to another service.
An immediate bummer for users planning to switch to Hulu + Live TV ($55 per month) or AT&T TV Now ($65 per month) is that both are slightly more expensive than their current YouTube TV subscriptions. Here’s hoping Sinclair and YouTube TV work out whatever’s going on in the background before users are forced to pay more elsewhere—or, you know, pirate everything.
Update 3/2/20 9 a.m. EST: Whatever disagreements YouTube says it had with Sinclair have evidently been smoothed out for the time being as negotiations continue. In a tweet on Friday, the company said it had “agreed to a temporary extension,” adding that “FOX Regional Sports Networks and YES Network are still available on YouTube TV while we work to reach an agreement. We’ll be sure to share an update as soon as we have more info on a potential timeline. More to come!”