ESPN began pulling its videos off YouTube late last week, the AP reports, in a rights dispute stemming from YouTube Red, the video site’s new ad-free subscription service.
Red, which will cost $10 a month, launches Wednesday and, along with ad-free viewing, gives users access to unlimited on-demand music.
“YouTube has said that creators have to participate in Red to have their videos show on YouTube in the U.S., even on the free ad-supported side,” the AP reports. “It has said creators behind 99 percent of all content watched on the site have signed on, including ESPN’s parent, The Walt Disney Co.”
The two companies declined to discuss the legal issues late last week, the story notes, but industry experts have weighed in.
“Media analyst Laura Martin of Needham & Co. said it is likely that ESPN’s pre-existing contracts with cable and satellite companies like Comcast Corp. prevent it from participating in YouTube’s subscription plan,” the AP reports.
Martin said ESPN “has to leave YouTube so it doesn’t get sued by its pre-existing partners.”
ESPN has multiyear deals in place with TV distributors, Martin notes, including a deal with Comcast that she says can’t be renegotiated for another eight years.
Martin adds: “I think YouTube will have to cave if they want ESPN back.”