ESPN, ACC, SEC And Other Disney Channels Gone From DISH Network

by 24USATVOct. 2, 2022, 2 a.m. 20
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In a bold move, the Walt Disney Company forced Charlie Ergen’s DISH Network and Sling TV to pull down the signals of all of its cable networks, including ESPN ACC Network, SEC Network and a number of ABC Television stations.

Typically, carriage disputes over price can go right down to the wire and many channels try to time the expiration of contracts just prior to the SuperBowl or some other major sporting event.

Indeed, many DISH Network subscribers were livid on Social Media after finding out they couldn’t watch College GameDay and other games on ESPN and SEC Network.

DISH Network broke the news on Social Media, tweeting at 2:52 a.m. on October 1, “Our contract has expired with The Walt Disney Company. Our goal and priority is to reach a fair agreement to bring their channels back as quickly as possible. Visit www.dishpromise.com. For more information and to make your voice heard, call Disney at 818-560-1000.

It is extremely rare for a channel to go dark—typically extensions are given for several days or even a week so that the economics can be agreed upon. However, it is very challenging for a major owner of cable networks to budge on price given what are called Most Favored Nations (MFN’s) contracts that are in carriage agreements with other major cable and satellite operators.

MFN’s state that if an operator like DISH is given a lower price than another operator of similar size, the cable network owner must pass this new discounted price onto these other multichannel systems that have the same size subscriber base.

DISH Network has been an exception to the rule when it comes to disputes with the owners of sports cable networks. It has permanently banished all RSNs from the platform effective in December of 2021 when it kicked off New England Sports Network (NESN), the last RSN it had on its channel line-ups.

It did this due to the fact of the high price per channel and the fact that most RSNs require their network be on the basic tier, driving up the cost of video packages. This means that nearly every customer pays the high price of the RSN even if he or she doesn’t watch the channels. And in some markets there are multiple RSNs in a market which means the customer can be paying over $10/month for RSNs that they aren’t even watching.

But the stakes are so high that DISH Network, in a rare public statement, said that Disney demanded a $1 billion annual price increase and then walked away from the table when DISH Network would not agree to the massive price-hike. It is known as one of the lowest cost multichannel operators and is loath to add huge price increases onto consumers.

DISH Network has packages like America’s Top 120, which carries the entire ESPN family of channels, as well as more expensive packages like America’s Top 120 Plus ($84.99/month), America’s Top 200 ($94.99/month), America’s Top 250 ($104.99/month). All of the latter packages carry ACC, all of the ESPN Networks, and SEC.

The Walt Disney Company has a 50-100% stake in nearly 30 basic cable networks, not to mention a number of ABC Television stations (which were also pulled off the air during this carriage dispute). ESPN alone costs almost $9/subscriber per month wholesale to the cable or satellite operator. Adding their mark-up would bring the retail cost closer to $12/month on your video bill, and this doesn’t include the cost of ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPNews, ESPNU, ACC or SEC.

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