A group of YouTube TV subscribers has filed an antitrust lawsuit against The Walt Disney Company alleging they force consumers to pay more than they should for live-streamed TV online.
According to Deadline, the plaintiffs which come from four states claim Disney requiring streamers like YouTube TV to include ESPN inflates their prices more than necessary. An 82 page brief filed in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco alleges Disney’s control of both ESPN and Hulu allows the company to “inflate prices marketwise by raising the prices of its own products” and also “set a price floor.” YouTube TV is the largest streaming live paid television service, with more than 5 million subscribers.
The suit continues “Together, these carriage agreement mandates — which now cover all of Disney’s leading competitors in the SLPTV Market — allow Disney to use ESPN and Hulu to set a price floor in the SLPTV Market and to inflate prices marketwide by raising the prices of its own products. And this is exactly what Disney has done in the past three years, since it took operational control of Hulu. Since Disney acquired operational control over Hulu in May 2019, prices across the SLPTV Market, including for YouTube TV, have doubled. This dramatic, marketwide price inflation has been led by Disney’s own price hikes for Hulu + Live TV, and has directly tracked Disney’s competitor-by-competitor negotiation of new SLPTV carriage agreements over this time period.”
The suit seeks unspecified damages and are demanding a jury trial rather than arbitration or settlement. Last year, a dispute between Disney and Google caused their programming to disappear from YouTube TV for two days before being restored. As a result of losing Disney programming, Google was set to reduce the price of YouTube TV from $64.99 to $49.99 per month, but did not do so.