ABC, ESPN and other Disney networks go dark on Dish and Sling TV

Dish claimed Disney wanted nearly $1 billion more to extend a contract that has now expired.

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Disney-owned channels including local ABC stations, ESPN, FX and 17 others are no longer available on Dish Network and Sling TV. Dish says Disney wanted almost $1 billion more to extend their carriage contract, which expired at 3AM ET on October 1st. As a result, Dish had to remove Disney's channels from both platforms for the time being. As is usually the case in these situations, both sides are blaming each other for the blackout.

Dish claimed it offered Disney a contract extension, but said the latter rejected the proposal and walked away from the negotiating table. "We were not able to reach a mutual renewal agreement with Disney and without a contract in place we are legally required to remove their channels from our service," Dish said in a statement.

Dish has accused Disney of holding "viewers hostage for negotiation leverage." It claimed that Disney wanted Dish to insert ESPN and ESPN2 into packages that don't currently include sports channels. In addition, it said Disney wanted to upend a policy that allows Dish subscribers to remove local channels and save money. “Now Disney wants to take this away by forcing most Dish customers in their ABC markets to pay for local channels,” Dish said.

On the flip side, Disney claimed it didn't receive a fair offer to keep the likes of ESPN and National Geographic on Dish and Sling TV. “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," Disney told Variety in a 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. We’re committed to reaching a fair resolution, and we urge Dish to work with us in order to minimize the disruption to their customers.”

The Disney networks that Dish had to remove from its platforms are ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, Disney Channel, Disney Jr., Disney XD, Freeform, FX, FXX, FXM, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, ACC Network, SEC Network, Longhorn Network and Baby TV. Dish also had to jettison local ABC stations in Chicago; Fresno, California; Houston; Los Angeles; New York City; Philadelphia; Raleigh, North Carolina; and San Francisco.

This is the second time in the space of a year that Disney's channels have gone dark on a major live TV streaming service. YouTube TV lost access to them last December over a carriage fee dispute with Disney. The standoff didn't last long, however, as the likes of ESPN and local ABC channels returned the next day.

Dish has also had battles with other media giants. HBO and Cinemax vanished from Dish and Sling TV in 2018. The channels, and HBO Max, became available on Dish again last year after it reached an agreement with WarnerMedia, which is now part of Warner Bros. Discovery. However, the channels and HBO Max still aren't available on Sling TV.