Disputes between television providers and networks are nothing new. They happen all the time, but rarely does one of these disputes leave so many viewers high and dry as the current spat between Dish Network and Disney, the corporate parent of ESPN.
Dish Network is in the midst of a contract dispute with Disney, which takes Disney-owned channels like ESPN, Disney Channel, Freeform, and even ABC out of the hands of Dish subscribers, as well as subscribers to Sling TV, the streaming service that Dish owns.
The dispute affects 10 million subscribers and puts sports fans in particular in a bind on a busy college football Saturday. Daniel Kaplan of The Athletic points out that there’s an unprecedented wrinkle this time.
“What makes this particular dustup between a content provider and distributor noteworthy is it may be the first time the trend of moving material off of cable and onto a streaming service, like ESPN + and Disney +, has been cited as one of the reasons,” Kaplan writes.
Disney’s streaming services aren’t bringing in money. The company reports losses of $1 billion over the past quarter between ESPN+, Disney+, and Hulu. Disney is asking for more money from cable providers as well as other stipulations, and Dish doesn’t want to bite.
“We don’t think this is fair and that is why we are fighting hard for a fair rate to ensure you get the best possible value from Dish,” a statement from Dish reads.
“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,” said Disney in its statement. “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.”
In the meantime, Dish customers who want to watch football games — and other sporting events — on ABC, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPN News, ESPN Deportes, ACC Network, SEC Network, and the Longhorn Network get the shaft.
My aunt and uncle in Washington state were among them. They were eager to watch tonight’s University of Georgia football game against the University of Missouri, and Dish Network left them scrambling to find an alternative.
“I hope everyone that has Dish network goes thru the trouble to cancel their subscription,” my uncle wrote on Facebook. “They have taken ESPN and all Channels owned by Disney off. Months ago they took the Mariners off now I cannot watch game day or the Georgia game. The only way these big companies will listen is if we quit giving them our money. So done with cable.”
My aunt wrote that today was “going to be a heck of a day” if they couldn’t access the UGA game. They wound up signing up for Hulu to be able to watch tonight’s game.
Baseball fans who rely on Dish will also miss ESPN’s breathless coverage of everything Aaron Judge does.
Here’s hoping Dish Network and Disney can work out their differences quickly. Otherwise, millions of sports fans could be finding new providers.