YouTube TV regains ESPN, ABC and other Disney channels as agreement is reached

Youtube TV app on Apple TV home screen
(Image credit: Future)

Editor's Note: YouTube TV and Disney managed to come to an agreement on Sunday (Dec. 19). YouTube TV announced the news online, and noted the $15 discount was still happening. The original version of this article follows.

It actually happened. YouTube TV and Disney failed to come to an agreement to renew their contract at midnight ET, as Friday (Dec. 17) became Saturday (Dec. 18). 

Disney and the Google-owned YouTube TV both issued statements about their issues renewing their contract earlier this week, preparing us for this possibility. Right now you can see for yourself (in screenshots shown below) that ABC, ESPN and the other Disney-owned channels are not listed in the YouTube TV offerings. 

An update on YouTube's blog attributed to The YouTube Team states "We’ve held good faith negotiations with Disney for several months. Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we’ve been unable to reach an equitable agreement before our existing one expired, and their channels are no longer available on YouTube TV. We will be decreasing our monthly price by $15, from $64.99 to $49.99 while this content remains off of our platform."

This is a change of form for YouTube TV. YouTube TV and NBCUniversal actually made things work this past October (so NBC, USA and other channels could stay) YouTube TV and Roku also fixed their issues, keeping YouTube and YouTube TV apps in the Roku Channel Store. Tonight's story is different.

What you should do: fubo vs Sling

Since we've tested the best streaming services, we have recommendations for what to do if you really do need the Disney-owned ESPN, ABC and the rest of those channels. Neither of which are available à la carte, as even ESPN Plus doesn't include the live ESPN channel.

Two of the best cable TV alternatives to consider are fuboTV ($65 per month) and Sling TV (starting at $35 per month). If you need ABC above all else, go with fubo. You'll pay more, but you'll also get more channels (but you may be shy some NBA live streams without TNT). If ESPN matters more, go with Sling TV.

One issue, though, about starting a new account right now with either of those services is that YouTube TV and Disney could fix things sooner rather than later. Fortunately, fubo's got a 7-day free trial. Sling's currently not offering any free trials, but it's lowered its first month price to $10.

What the companies had to say for themselves

The excuses and explanations from corporations fall on deaf ears in situations like this, because it's all about the money each side thinks it's owed. 

In The Hollywood Reporter, a Disney statement quoted reads "Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution has a highly successful track record of negotiating such agreements with providers of all types and sizes across the country and is committed to working with Google to reach a fair, market-based agreement."

Google/YouTube TV's original blog post about the problem said "Our ask to Disney, as with all our partners, is to treat YouTube TV like any other TV provider — by offering us the same rates that services of a similar size pay, across Disney’s channels for as long as we carry them. If Disney offers us equitable terms, we’ll renew our agreement with them."

In the update posted at the time of the failure to renew the contract, the YouTube post also tried to save face with customers. It reads "We know this is frustrating news for our customers, and not what we wanted. We will continue conversations with Disney to advocate on your behalf in hopes of restoring their content on YouTube TV. In the meantime, we’ll update this website soon with the latest updates, including channels impacted, alternative ways to continue enjoying some of Disney’s content on The Disney Bundle, information about our price decrease, plus any other questions you may have about this situation."

Looking for something else to stream? Check out our guide for how to watch A Christmas Story and how to watch Love Actually. Need more exuberance and man-child-like glee? We've got what you need to watch Elf online.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.