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TV channels owned by The Walt Disney Co. including ABC, ESPN, FX, Nat Geo and Disney Channel are back for customers of satellite TV firm Dish Network and its streaming multichannel service Sling TV after the networks went dark on its platforms Friday night amid a carriage dispute.
In a statement released late Sunday, Disney said it “reached a handshake agreement” with Dish, “which properly reflects fair market value and terms for The Walt Disney Company’s unparalleled content.
“As a result,” the company added, “we are pleased to restore our portfolio of networks on a temporary basis while both parties work to finalize a new deal.”
Now, the two sides will have to turn the handshake agreement into a legally binding contract.
A Disney source emphasized that the relatively brief blackout period reflects “how critically important” Disney’s channels are to pay-TV providers, and that the disputes don’t last long when they come up.
The Dish dispute is the second significant blackout for Disney in the past year. In late 2021, Disney’s channels briefly went dark on YouTube TV. Like the Dish dispute, that blackout was quickly resolved.
The dispute came at an inopportune time, with ABC just debuting its new fall season, including the return of Abbott Elementary, along with ESPN in the middle of the NFL season and with the MLB playoffs set to begin next week.
“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,” a Disney spokesperson said in a statement Friday night. “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.”
Dish, meanwhile, said that Disney was demanding a billion-dollar increase in fees and was investing in services like Disney+ and ESPN+, which are not included in the cost of a Dish subscription.
“Disney has exploited its market position to increase fees without regard for the public viewing experience,” said Brian Neylon, executive vp and group president for Dish TV, in a statement. “Clearly, Disney insists on prioritizing greed above American viewers, especially sports fans and families with children who watch their content.”
Dish currently has approximately 10 million pay TV subscribers, split between the satellite TV service and Sling TV.
However, Dish has been particularly aggressive in negotiations with content providers, with blackouts and the threat of blackouts a common occurrence on the service in recent years.
Shortly after completing its acquisition of the former Fox networks, Disney and Dish were in a dispute over FX and Nat Geo. Both of those channels are now covered by the overarching Disney contract, and have been pulled in the current dispute.
And the satellite company has seen local channels go dark in disputes with Nexstar and Scripps, with Sinclair narrowly avoiding a blackout last year.
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