Saturday, September 23

Disney Networks Including ESPN, ABC Go Dark on Dish and Sling TV Amid Carriage Dispute

Disney’s suite of 20 TV channels was yanked off Dish Network’s satellite television and Sling TV services for customers across the U.S., after the two companies failed to reach a carriage-renewal deal Friday.

Disney networks that are no longer on Dish TV and Sling TV include ESPN, FX, Disney Channel, Freeform and National Geographic, as well as ABC local stations in eight markets. The two companies’ previous carriage contract expired at midnight PT on Sept. 30. Dish is notorious in the pay-TV business for aggressive negotiating tactics with content companies — and hasn’t been afraid to sit through extended blackouts to try to extract more favorable terms.

According to Dish, the media conglomerate had asked for a $1 billion increase in fees (though it’s not clear what that entails) and declined the pay-TV operator’s offer for a contract extension. Dish accused Disney of initiating the channel blackout and “hold[ing] viewers hostage for negotiation leverage.”

Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution said Dish had rejected its “fair, market-based” offer for continuing to carry the networks.

“After months of negotiating in good faith, Dish has declined to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us for continued distribution of our networks. As a result, their Dish and Sling TV subscribers have lost access to our unrivaled portfolio of live sports and news plus kids, family and general entertainment programming from the ABC-owned television stations, the ESPN networks, the Disney-branded channels, Freeform, the FX networks, the National Geographic channels and BabyTV.”

According to Disney, “The rates and terms we are seeking reflect the marketplace and have been the foundation for numerous successful deals with pay-TV providers of all types and sizes across the country. We’re committed to reaching a fair resolution, and we urge Dish to work with us in order to minimize the disruption to their customers.”

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Dish claimed that, as part of the fee increase, Disney is demanding that ESPN and ESPN2 be included in Dish TV packages that currently exclude sports channels. In addition, while Dish TV has allowed subscribers to remove local channels to reduce their monthly bills, “Now Disney wants to take this away by forcing most Dish customers in their ABC markets to pay for local channels,” the pay-TV provider said.

“Disney has exploited its market position to increase fees without regard for the public viewing experience,” Brian Neylon, EVP and group president of Dish TV, said in a statement. “Clearly, Disney insists on prioritizing greed above American viewers, especially sports fans and families with children who watch their content.”

The full list of Disney-owned networks affected by the blackout are: ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, Disney Channel, Disney Jr., Disney XD, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, ACC Network, SEC Network, Longhorn Network and Baby TV.

ABC-owned locals that have winked off Dish and Sling TV are: Chicago (WLS), Fresno, Calif. (KFSN), Houston (KTRK), Los Angeles (KABC), New York (WABC), Philadelphia (WPVI), Raleigh, N.C. (WTVD) and San Francisco (KGO).

As of June 30, Dish had 7.79 million satellite TV subscribers (down 9% year over year) and 2.20 million Sling TV subscribers (down 10% year over year).

The Disney networks’ removal from Dish and Sling comes just four days after Dish reached a carriage-renewal agreement for Sony Pictures’ Game Show Network following a three-week blackout. Meanwhile, Disney had hit an impasse in carriage talks with Google’s YouTube TV in December 2021, resulting in a two-day blackout on the internet TV service.

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