ESPN's YouTube Channels Are Going Dark (UPDATE)

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ESPN’s YouTube channels are going private tonight, victims of a change in the way YouTube operates because of its new subscription service, YouTube Red.

People first began to notice something was amiss when the Grantland Network and Grantland podcast pages went dark earlier tonight, instead greeting visitors with this message: “This channel has no content.” When Richard Deitsch asked a question about it on Twitter, a Grantland senior editor pointed him at this landing page on Grantland’s website, containing links to Grantland’s videos.


All of those links were published today, and they feature the videos in ESPN’s video player, not YouTube’s. (Incidentally, Grantland’s decision to post their content to YouTube instead of ESPN’s video player has always been a source of contention between the affinity site and Bristol.)

Yesterday YouTube introduced YouTube Red. For $10 a month customers will be able to access original content YouTube is developing, as well as exclusive shows from longtime YouTube stars like Pewdiepie. They will also get videos ad free, and be able to save videos offline.


When asked about, uh, content creators being unhappy with YouTube Red’s terms by our sister site Gizmodo, a YouTube spokesperson gave the following statement, which explains in general terms what is happening with ESPN’s channels:

“Today, the overwhelming majority of our partners, representing nearly 99-percent of the content watched on YouTube, have signed up. Videos of partners who don’t update their terms will be made private, but we remain committed to working closely with these partners with the goal of bringing them on board.”


Basically, YouTube wants all video creators who make money on their videos (like ESPN) to be a part of YouTube Red. Those who cannot agree to terms with YouTube will see their videos made private in the U.S.—unviewable to almost everybody using YouTube.

Of ESPN’s 13 YouTube “featured” channels, two of them (Nacion ESPN and X Games) are still in operation, while the other 11 are not. It’s unclear why only some channels are up and others aren’t, and whether it was YouTube or ESPN that made them private, but you can expect to see all of ESPN’s YouTube channels go private until ESPN becomes a part of YouTube Red, which might take awhile.


According to a YouTube spokesperson, ESPN’s parent company Disney has signed an agreement to be a part of the new subscription service, but ESPN is not currently included in that due to rights and legal issues. Presumably ESPN’s numerous rights deals with sports leagues somehow prevent them from joining.

An ESPN spokesperson vigorously and persistently declined to comment. A Disney spokesperson didn’t respond to an email requesting comment.


Disclosure: Gawker Media is a partner with YouTube Red.

This post has been updated to reflect information given by a YouTube spokesperson after publication.


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