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AT&T Customers Brace for Big Disney Blackout — ABC Stations, ESPN, Disney Channel All At Risk

Phillip Dampier September 10, 2019 AT&T, Competition, Consumer News, DirecTV Now, Online Video 2 Comments

The Walt Disney Co., is warning AT&T U-verse, TV Now, and DirecTV customers that a blackout of Disney-owned ABC stations, ESPN, Freeform, and the Disney Channel is imminent because AT&T has not yet agreed on renewal terms.

If an agreement is not signed before the end of the month, AT&T video customers across the country are looking at a third major programming blackout this year.

“The Disney owned networks and stations have agreements in place with all of the major video providers in DirecTV and AT&T video territories, including Comcast, Verizon FiOS, Cox, Optimum, Frontier and others, and we have a strong track record of successfully reaching multi-year agreements with these and other TV providers,” the company said in a statement. “Unfortunately, so far AT&T has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us, despite the fact that the terms we are seeking are in line with recent marketplace deals we have reached with other distributors.”

The last contract renewal DirecTV signed with Disney was in late 2014. It is likely AT&T’s acquisition of DirecTV allowed the company to combine its U-verse and streaming agreements with the much larger contract with the satellite TV company, with AT&T’s combined carriage agreement likely to expire on Sept. 30, 2019.

AT&T has spent much of 2019 playing hardball with programmers, willing to let their contracts expire and blackout affected stations and networks. Earlier this year, customers lost access to local TV stations owned by CBS, Nexstar, and a handful of local stations under contract with Sinclair Broadcasting. Customers also lost access to the Altitude Sports and Entertainment Network, a regional sports channel, at the end of August. In some cases, it took several weeks to reach a negotiated settlement with local station owners.

It seems likely Walt Disney will find a similar level of intransigence with AT&T’s negotiating team. AT&T is already preparing its customers for a potential protracted fight and blackout.

“We’re disappointed to see The Walt Disney Co. put their viewers into the middle of negotiations. We are on the side of consumer choice and value and want to keep Disney channels and owned-and-operated local ABC stations in eight cities in our customers’ lineups,” AT&T said in a statement. “We hope to avoid any interruption to the services some of our customers care about. Our goal is always to deliver the content our customers want at a value that also makes sense to them. We’ll continue to fight for that here and appreciate their patience while we work this matter out.”

Any blackout would impact Disney-owned and operated ABC affiliates, including:

  • WABC-TV 7 New York
  • KABC-TV 7 Los Angeles
  • WTVD-TV 11 Raleigh-Durham, N.C.
  • KGO-TV 7 San Francisco
  • KTRK-TV 13 Houston
  • KFSN-TV 30 Fresno, Calif.
  • WLS-TV 7 Chicago
  • WPVI-TV 6 Philadelphia

Currently there are 2 comments on this Article:

  1. Cheryl sellmann says:

    If we loose abc program we will go back to comcast indefinitely

  2. Paul Houle says:

    Elliot Management recently wrote an Urkase against the management of AT&T and I don’t blame them.

    AT&T prices DirectTV as if it was a premium product, but then they get into retrans disputes just in time for football. Like every other TV provider they say that the subscribers left behind are “high value customers” so that the bleeding won’t be so bad in the future, but most of the other TV providers can jack up the price of their customers internet plans when they drop TV to make up for it, whereas Dish customers probably can’t get video-capable internet service from AT&T.

    One thing that is sure is that each retrans dispute they get into will be another reason for customers to cut the cord, switch providers, or put up a TV antenna.

    Oddly enough, many of the top management of AT&T (even people put in charge at Time Warner) are technically-minded people known for their contribution to open source software and for forcing telecom equipment makers to clear up their act, not the usual sorry parade of lawyers and MBAs that make boneheaded decisions at other companies.

    I can only wonder where AT&T would be if they decided to spent $100 billion to extend optic fiber instead of spending $200 billion on legacy TV companies. Given the high number of households underserved with broadband, they’d be making money when people watch TV for decades. They might even win “the race to 5G”, but hey, the way they are going, HBO will lose to Netflix.







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