YouTube TV brings Disney channels back after sudden departure

Even DVR recordings were wiped from subscribers' systems.

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Disney and YouTube have reached an uneasy truce, agreeing to bring all Disney-owned properties back to the YouTube TV platform. What, exactly, that settlement entails has not been revealed to the public.

“We’re happy to announce that we’ve reached a deal with Disney and have already started to restore access to channels like ESPN and FX, and Disney recordings that were previously in your Library,” the official YouTube TV Twitter account posted Sunday. “Your local ABC station will also be turning on throughout the day.”

The account further noted that the discounted monthly rate of $49.99 — which had been implemented following the loss of Disney’s channels — would be honored for all customers on a one-time basis. But then it’s right back to the original price of $64.99.

The sudden removal of all Disney-owned channels from YouTube TV late last week took customers by surprise. Okay, that might be an understatement — shock and anger certainly came to the forefront of the discourse. Just another reminder that corporations can revoke our access to the media we “own” any time they’d like.

Wiped even the DVR — The disappearance of Disney properties happened literally overnight. Late Friday, both YouTube and Disney released statements to the effect that the companies couldn’t compromise on a deal and, as such, Disney pulled out. ESPN, ABC, Freeform, FX, and Disney all just… gone.

Oh, but it gets worse. Not only did these channels disappear — so did every megabyte of DVR storage from those channels. Not on-demand listings, just actual recordings of live broadcasts. So if you’d recorded a full season of a recent FX show to watch, for example, by Saturday it’d be as if you never recorded it at all. As Vulture’s Josef Adalian puts it most succinctly: “Yikes.”

Everything’s ephemeral — Disney-owned channels are slowly but surely trickling back onto YouTube TV. Emphasis on slowly. As DigitalTrends points out, some users might not even notice the channels have been restored — YouTube TV doesn’t add new channels to your custom view automatically, so you may have to manually do so via web browser. Just to make things a little more annoying.

Broadcast providers have been removing channels for financial reasons far longer than YouTube TV has even existed. In that regard, at least, the sudden disappearance of Disney networks isn’t all that unexpected. An unseemly burden for paying customers, yes, but not a very surprising one.

The DVR-scrubbing is much less usual. It’s a stark reminder that we relinquish many of our rights to digital data as our “property” when we allow it to be stored anywhere other than our physical devices. If you purchase The Matrix from YouTube and someday down the line Warner Bros has a falling out with Google, that movie you “owned” will likely be snatched from your collection without warning.

Given its perceived omnipresence, it’s easy to believe we hold all the power in our internet activities. But if all the recent widespread outages have taught us anything, it’s that the power we hold is entirely reliant on the businesses that make high-level internet decisions. We can only “own” pieces of the internet if those in power give us the go-ahead.