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Fallout From YouTube Red: ESPN Quits Streaming Service, Channels Are Now Empty

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Its done. Fans who had been hoping for a last-minute compromise by the parties involved are in for a disappointment. Popular sports franchise ESPN has concluded its removal from YouTube as a result of which, all of the channels associated with ESPN have had their content removed, thanks to the YouTube Red deal.

The sudden disappearance comes like a bolt of blue for sports fan — including me — who were hoping that at least some of ESPN’s older content may have been preserved. Hopes, that were compounded by the fact that while most of ESPN’s content across various channel had been removed earlier, some of it — including clips from before 2012 — was still on-air.

However, a recent look at the channel showed them empty, with the sad message “This channel has no content.” stamped across the screen.

The move was a pretty drastic one, because ESPN’s YouTube franchises were among some of the more popular channels. While the flagship channel had almost 1.6 million subscribers, other channels also had followers in the hundreds of thousands. As per ESPN,

“ESPN is not currently part of the Red service. Content previously available on the free YouTube service will be available across ESPN digital properties.”

For those who are unfamiliar with the YouTube Red deal and are wondering what is all this fuss is exactly about, the online video streaming company has introduced a new tier — labelled YouTube Red — to existing Google and YouTube accounts — ostensibly to let viewers enjoy content on YouTube without the annoying advertisements. The service, which launches from October the 28th in the US, is not free however, and comes with a subscription fee of $9.99. The revenue thus generated will be split between the content rights holder and YouTube itself, also marking a shift in the original approach to revenue generation, which relied heavily on advertisements.

However, there is a catch. Creators must sign up for the deal if they wish to be featured upon YouTube at all. Those who do not, will have their videos hidden in the original YouTube as well. Ouch!

YouTube is not the first video streaming company to go with this approach of revenue generation. Hulu also tried something like this when it unveiled an ad-free version earlier this year. However, on facing opposition from several popular shows it relented and managed to arrive at a compromise suitable to everyone. According to the terms of the deal, a message stating that the content will have commercials before and after the program is displayed before those shows. However, YouTube has other ideas and instead of trying to reach compromises, it is strictly adhering to its policy according to which, if a creator wont join YouTube Red’s subscription service, then their videos will not be displayed on YouTube at all!

Pretty harsh, but then from YouTube’s point of view, allowing content providers to choose whether or not they wanted to display content would have ruined the point of Red and instead of ad-free access to all of YouTube as promised, users would have still been stuck with ads on some channels, which wanted to monetize via advertisements.

Though it is hard to know whether they agree with YouTube in principal or if they are merely intimidated by its aggressive tactics, over 99 percent of of creators (a.c.t YouTube) have signed the new terms and joined Red. However, some — including ESPN, several Japanese gaming videos and  several music videos from the vocaloid and jpop genres — have refused to sign the deal, as a consequence of which their channels are now empty.

These videos can be viewed on the non-U.S. versions of YouTube, where they’re still ad-supported. However, their future on the video streaming service once YouTube makes Red available across the globe, remains uncertain at best.

A bibliophile and a business enthusiast.

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