In a move that has Dish and Sling customers fuming, cable and broadcast channels owned by The Walt Disney Company were pulled off of their systems at 2 a.m. Central Time Saturday morning in a retransmission dispute.
The decision to yank the channels surprised everyone as usually, customers are given a heads-up on if channels would be pulled from their system’s lineup. But this time, there was no advanced warning – a first.
Dish is claiming Disney is asking for an $1 billion increase in compensation to carry its channels. Disney owns ESPN, who commands the highest per-customer-price among cable networks (usually around $9 or $10, depending on market) due to its massive rights deals. Other Disney-owned channels affected include ESPN 2, SEC Network, Freeform, FX, Nat Geo, Disney Channel, Disney XD and others. Disney inherited many of these channels through their acquisition of 20th Century Fox (excluding Fox, FS1, and Fox News and related properties.)
The impasse also means the eight ABC-owned stations are off Dish and Sling, including ABC 7 Chicago (WLS-TV), WABC New York, and KABC Los Angeles. There were no reports of any other ABC affiliates off of Dish or Sling outside of the owned stations, but if there is, this space will be updated.
This comes as football season is in full swing; ESPN and its family of networks air college football on Saturdays and airs Monday Night Football on its main channel and on some weeks, simulcasted on ABC while Peyton and Eli Manning have a alternative broadcast on ESPN 2. ESPN and ABC also have MLB playoffs starting October 7.
Dish has been known for being a hardball negotiator when it comes to retrans rights as they have led all service providers involved in blackouts, with a long list of combatants: Nexstar, Fox, Tegna, Game Show Network, and just about every regional sports network. Both Dish and Sling have lost subscribers over the years, but it hasn’t stopped Dish from dropping channels it deems too expensive for them, as all cable and satellite providers have lost subscribers in the cord-cutting era. As of June 30, Dish had only 7.8 million subscribers with Sling having only 2.2 million.
With this impasse, both are betting angering customers losing their programming during this time of year is worth it, as something like this could attract the attention of those in Capitol Hill. But with Congress bitterly divided on…well, everything, don’t look to them for any solution – especially since Republican lawmakers are still upset with Disney over the company calling out Florida Governor’s Ron DeSantis’ anti-LGBTQ legislation.
As we are barreling toward streaming as a means of watching programming, both companies pulling this stunt in the middle of the night without advanced warning is worrisome and just accelerates the demise of linear TV as we know it.
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