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ESPN is shutting down its YouTube channels over paid subscriptions

ESPN is shutting down its YouTube channels over paid subscriptions

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Not everyone's on-board with YouTube's new paid subscription option. In the wake of this week's announcement, ESPN has begun pulling its videos off YouTube, as a result of a rights conflict with YouTube's paid subscription model. The switch was first noticed at Grantland, where YouTube videos have been pulled en masse and replaced by ESPN's official player.

The state of ESPN's official YouTube channel has fluctuated throughout the day. Early in the morning, all videos were made private leaving US-based visitors with an empty page, as below. Embeds of the pulled videos (as in this SBNation post) showed a blank space, indicating that the video has been made private, although it's unclear whether the action was taken by ESPN or YouTube itself.

ESPN YouTube page

Just before noon, old videos began to reappear on the page, none more recent than three years old. It's unclear what strategy motivated the shift.

ESPN's parent company Disney had initially pushed back against YouTube Red, but according to YouTube, that dispute isn't what's behind today's blackout. "Disney has signed the agreement for YouTube Red," YouTube said in a statement to The Verge, "but ESPN is not part of the subscription service at launch due to rights and legal issues."

The blackout hasn't been consistent across ESPN properties. ESPN's First Take channel is still alive and well, as well as two of ESPN's other featured channels. Disney's official channel is also unaffected, and includes a number of ongoing web shows that might make it difficult to abandon YouTube entirely. In September, the company announced a YouTube-only animated series called "Star Darlings," including extensive merchandise and retail tie-ins.

11:45am: Updated to reflect the changing state of the ESPN YouTube page.

12:43pm: Updated to include YouTube statement.

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