Dish-Disney carriage dispute: All you need to know
TV channels owned by The Walt Disney Company went dark for customers of Dish Network
Dish rejected Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution's offer to continue carrying the networks
Dish claimed that Disney was requesting a billion-dollar fee
TV channels owned by The Walt Disney Company, including ABC, ESPN, FX, Nat Geo, and Disney Channel, went dark for customers of satellite TV provider Dish Network and its streaming multichannel service Sling TV.
ESPN, FX, Disney Channel, Freeform, and National Geographic, as well as ABC local stations in eight markets, are no longer available on Dish TV or Sling TV. The previous carriage contract between the two companies expired on September 30. Dish has a reputation in the pay-TV industry for aggressive negotiating tactics with content companies — and hasn't been afraid to sit through lengthy blackouts to try to get better terms.
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After the two firms were unable to agree on a new carriage agreement, the channels were withdrawn. The conflict arises at a bad moment, with ESPN in the middle of the NFL season, the MLB playoffs starting next week, and ABC just kicking off its new fall lineup, which includes the return of Abbott Elementary.
Dish claims that the media conglomerate turned down the pay-TV operator's offer of a contract extension and demanded a $1 billion increase in payments (although it's unclear what that comprises). Disney was charged by Dish of starting the channel blackout and "hostage-taking viewers for negotiating advantage."
"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. 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," a Disney spokesperson said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Dish claimed that Disney was requesting a billion-dollar fee increase and that it was investing in services such as Disney+ and ESPN+, which are not included in the cost of a Dish subscription.
"Disney has taken advantage of its market position to raise fees without regard for the public viewing experience," said Brian Neylon, executive vice president and group president of Dish TV, in a statement. "Clearly, Disney places greed ahead of American viewers, particularly sports fans and families with children who watch their content."
Dish rejected Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution's "fair, market-based" offer to continue carrying the networks.
"Dish has declined to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us for continued distribution of our networks after months of good faith negotiations." As a result, their Dish and Sling TV subscribers no longer have access to the ABC-owned television stations, ESPN networks, Disney-branded channels, Freeform, FX networks, National Geographic channels, and BabyTV's unrivalled portfolio of live sports and news, as well as 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," according to Disney. We are committed to reaching a fair resolution, and we encourage Dish to collaborate with us to minimise the disruption to their customers."
Disney, according to Dish, is demanding that ESPN and ESPN2 be included in Dish TV packages that currently do not include sports channels as part of the fee increase. Furthermore, while Dish TV subscribers have been able 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.
Dish currently has approximately 10 million pay TV subscribers, divided equally between satellite TV and Sling TV. The Dish dispute is Disney's second major blackout in the last year. Disney's channels on YouTube TV briefly went dark in late 2021.
Dish, on the other hand, has been particularly aggressive in its negotiations with content providers, with blackouts and the threat of blackouts becoming a common occurrence on the service in recent years. Disney and Dish were at odds over FX and Nat Geo shortly after Disney completed its acquisition of the former Fox networks. Both of these channels are now covered by the larger Disney contract and have been drawn into the current dispute.
When the two companies couldn't reach an agreement, Univision went dark on Dish for months, and HBO experienced its first blackout on Dish in 2018. Dish Network and HBO did not reach an agreement until 2021.
In addition, local channels have gone dark due to disputes with Nexstar and Scripps, with Sinclair narrowly avoiding a blackout last year.