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Why are Disney Channel and ESPN no longer on Dish and Sling TV?

Millions of Dish TV and Sling TV customers were blindsided by a blackout of Disney’s collection of 20 TV channels due to a rate hike dispute.

Disney content goes dark on Dish TV and Sling TV

The Walt Disney Company and the satellite TV firm Dish Network are butting heads over negotiations for a carriage-renewal deal. Failure to secure an extension agreement by midnight 30 September on the West Coast caused a content blackout of Disney’s collection of 20 TV channels for millions of customers across the US.

Dish Network Corporation blames the media conglomerate for declining an offer for a contract extension and demanding a $1 billion rate hike. Disney for its part says that it was the pay-TV operator that “declined to reach a fair, market-based agreement.”

The blackout includes channels for Disney channel, ESPN and FX among others along with ABC local stations in eight markets for Dish TV and its Sling TV streaming service

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“Disney insists on prioritizing greed above American viewers”

In a statement the satellite TV firm claims that Disney is holding viewers “hostage” in an attempt to gain leverage in the ongoing negotiations. “Disney has exploited its market position to increase fees without regard for the public viewing experience,” Dish TV executive vice president and group president Brian Neylon said in a statement.

“Clearly, Disney insists on prioritizing greed above American viewers, especially sports fans and families with children who watch their content.”

Disney demands changes to Dish packages

While full details of the $1 billion rate increase being demanded aren’t clear, Dish claims that it includes obligations for the content distributor to change how it creates packages. One demand the pay-TV operator told Variety involves including ESPN and ESPN2 in packages that currently exclude sports channels.

Another demand would force most Dish customers in their ABC markets to pay for local channels. This would end the company’s practice of letting subscribers remove local channels to reduce their monthly bill.

“We will continue to negotiate to provide the best value for our customers. We want to provide customers with fair rates, reliable service and the freedom of choice to pay for the channels they watch most,” added Sling TV executive vice president and group president Gary Schanman.

Disney says rates and terms “reflect the marketplace”

“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,” Disney told Variety. “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.”

“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,” the content provider added. Disney says that it is committed to reaching a fair resolution and work to “minimize the disruption” to Dish customers urging the pay-TV company to do the same.

Another round of brinksmanship

Negotiations between pay-TV providers and content companies have become ever more fraught with more customers cutting the cord and declining viewership. However, Dish is known for being especially aggressive in its hardball tactics at the negotiating table. For decades Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen is known for his brinkmanship in carriage negotiations.

Last year, a blackout of over 100 Sinclair Broadcast Group stations on the Dish Network was narrowly averted after a short-term extension agreement was reached. A multi-year contract was agreed to after three months of negotiations. Dish just recently reached an agreement with Sony Pictures’ Game Show Network that had been blacked out for the three weeks on the satellite TV service.

This isn’t the first time that Disney has gone dark on a platform either. In December 2021, service was suspended on Google’s YouTube TV for two days after an impasse in carriage negotiations between the two.

Channels affected by the Disney blackout on Dish TV

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 stations impacted by Disney’s blackout include: Chicago, IL (WLS), Fresno, CA (KFSN), Houston, TX (KTRK), Los Angeles, CA (KABC), New York, NY (WABC), Philadelphia, PA (WPVI), Raleigh, NC (WTVD) and San Francisco, CA (KGO).


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