Disney is the latest media company to find itself battling it out with TV provider Dish this week, with the satellite TV company pulling pretty much all of Disney’s channels—ESPN, FX, Disney Channel, Freeform, and National Geographic, plus eight ABC affiliates in certain markets—from its service amid a very expensive spat between the two groups. The bone of contention is, of course, the carriage agreement between the two companies (i.e., “You give us money, we let you broadcast our shit and charge people for it”), which ended at midnight last night without negotiations for a renewal going through.
As Variety notes, Dish is well known for being extremely willing, at moments like this, to just take its network of satellites and go home; the company had a long and messy fight with AMC about a decade ago that saw all that company’s channels go dark for an extended period while a deal was hammered out. This time, Dish is claiming that Disney is increasing its fee demands by $1 billion in order to continue carriage; Disney claims it’s making a “fair, market-based” offer for its various channels.
This isn’t the first time Disney and Dish have publicly fought it out. (Seriously, Dish beefs with everybody; Disney has sued them, and been counter-sued by them, a bunch of times over the years, including over Dish’s Hopper DVR device from a few years back, which advertised itself with the ability to strip a broadcaster’s advertising out of their broadcasts, which it turns out that advertisers, for some reason, did not like!)
But this is the first time the two companies have gone at it this hard during the streaming era, which we can’t help but assume is going to shift the landscape here a bit. Dish’s ability to run these kinds of withholding games—rest assured, they’ve already put out a press release blaming Disney for treating their customers so shabbily—has always been predicated on having a huge subscriber base that Disney would like to have access to. But as cord cutting and streaming become more prominent, it raises the question of how much Disney actually needs that carriage. Certainly, that reported billion-dollar upcharge suggests that the media giant no longer views Dish as one of the only games in town; we’ll have to wait and see how negotiations between the two companies play out (and whether Dish customers will deal with the blackout by simply shifting over to Disney and ESPN+ to get their content needs met.)