YouTube TV may lose NBCU channels in a cord-cutter’s nightmare — what to know

Cord-cutting in front of Youtube TV logo
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

YouTube TV may lose out on Must-See TV, as the cord-cutting service finds itself in a dispute with NBCUniversal right before a big weekend of TV. Both YouTube TV and NBCUniversal have been unable to reach an agreement that would their deal to include NBCU's multiple channels in YouTube's subscription streaming service. And the outlook is so bleak, YouTube is preparing to make an offer to keep subscribers from bolting.

This would be a terrible time to lose access NBC channels, as this weekend NBC has both Sunday Night Football's big Tampa Bay Buccaneers vs New England Patriots featuring Tom Brady against his former team and the season premiere of Saturday Night Live featuring host Owen Wilson and musical guest Kacey Musgraves. In the following weeks, Kim Kardashian West, Rami Malek and Jason Sudeikis (Ted Lasso himself) will host.

And it's not just NBC that would go away: Bravo, E!, Telemundo, USA, SyFy, Oxygen, CNBC, MSNBC, Universo, The Golf Channel, Universal Kids, NBC Sports Network could all vanish. It could be even more than that, as NBCU claims "14+ popular channels" would be dropped. And while we like YouTube TV as one of the best cable TV alternatives, this could be very annoying for all involved.

As a way to make-good with its subscribers, YouTube TV announced that if NBC channels do drop from its service, it would "decrease [its] monthly price by $10, from $64.99 to $54.99." The parties could make up before then, which would stop the price cut from taking place.

According to Variety, NBCU is asking for higher rates for its channels than Google is interested in paying. In a statement to the outlet, NBCU is claiming it's just "seeking fair rates."

Variety also notes that Google claims NBCU wants its Peacock streaming service to be bundled into YouTube TV — but that its own app would also be required for streaming that content.

The deal between YouTube TV and NBCU is set to expire on Thursday, Sept. 30, but neither party is publicizing a specific time for the channels to drop out. Cnet claims that the deal expires at "9 p.m. PT Thursday/midnight ET Friday," which could mean that the networks could go dark during the middle of west coast Law & Order Thursdays airings, after Special Victims Unit and before Organized Crime.

Analysis: Is a $10 discount enough?

To be frank, we're not sure the discounted rate being floated by YouTube is enough to make up for what's being lost. Sure, the $10 you'd save would be twice as much as the cost of the $4.99/month Peacock (which could fill in the live Sunday Night Football gap), but if you want to watch Law and Order and SNL and other NBCU programming live, you don't want to wait until the next day for those shows to go up on Peacock. 

Cord-cutting services give the power of canceling service to the customer, as monthly contracts mean you don't need to stick with a service if they don't have the programming you want. And NBCU channels are practically everywhere — we know, as we're working on a story about which services have the most popular channels. You could just go to Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV or fuboTV if you wanted to.

Why would someone take $10 extra, when they could just cancel their YouTube TV account, or put it on hold until this dispute fixes itself. 

This isn't YouTube TV's only big platform issue right now, either. Currently, the YouTube TV app isn't available to download on Roku TV, as a dispute between Roku and YouTube TV took it off that store. You now need to go inside the YouTube app, and find the YouTube TV section, to get your live TV if you are a new subscriber, or moving to a new Roku. And that dispute's been going on since May.

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.