A U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles Monday granted The Walt Disney
Co.'s request for a temporary restraining order barring EchoStar Communications
Corp. from dropping ABC Family -- a move the direct-broadcast satellite provider
had planned to execute at midnight Jan. 1.
The restraining order, granted by Judge Gary Allen Feess of the U.S. District
Court for the Central District of California, will keep ABC Family on EchoStar's
Dish Network at least through Jan. 10.
That's when the parties are scheduled to reconvene in court to review
Disney's application for a preliminary injunction.
Both parties are expected to file written responses, according to an ABC
'EchoStar stands firm in its belief that it has the right to discontinue
broadcasting ABC Family,' an EchoStar spokesman said.
'Although we are heartened by this victory, this is not a permanent fix,'
Disney president and chief operating officer Bob Iger said in a prepared
statement. 'We remain concerned about EchoStar's willingness to exercise its
power at the expense of fair competition and consumer choice as evidenced by the
strong possibility that EchoStar will discontinue ESPN Classic as early as
Asked about its plans for ESPN Classic, the spokeswoman said: 'It's coming
down at midnight.'
On Dec. 18, ABC Family filed suit against EchoStar, contending that the loss
of carriage on the DBS provider would also threaten its ability to renew
contracts with other distributors.
The lawsuit, which also charges breach of contract, was filed by
International Family Entertainment Inc., parent of the former Fox Family
Channel, which was renamed ABC Family by new owner Disney.
ABC Family -- which has a 10-year affiliation deal with Dish that expires in
August 2005 -- claimed in the suit that the DBS company wants to drop it due to
a ratings decline, the need for channel space to comply with must-carry
obligations and to get lower license fees.
In court papers filed on Dec. 27, EchoStar vice president of programming
Michael Schwimmer accused Disney of threatening to 'march on Washington' against
the proposed $25.8 billion union of EchoStar and DirecTV Inc. parent Hughes
Electronics Corp. unless Dish agreed to keep ABC Family on its lineup by Jan.
Bolstered by its '25 Days of Christmas' stunt, ABC Family scored a number of
network Nielsen Media Research records in primetime during the fourth quarter.
ABC Family posted its highest household delivery and total viewership since
August 1998, when it was converted to Fox Family from The Family Channel.
According to Nielsen data supplied by ABC Family, the network delivered an
average of 764,000 households from Oct. 1 through Dec. 27, up 14 percent from
670,000 in the fourth quarter of 2000, spanning Oct. 2 through Dec. 31 of that
year. (Officially, the fourth quarter of 2001 ended Dec. 30.)
ABC Family also recorded a network record in terms of total viewers,
garnering a 14 percent gain to 1.18 million versus 1.04 million in the final
quarter of 2000.
The network also notched a record performance for adults 18 through 49 (a 12
percent jump to 491,000 from 437,000) and 18 through 34 (an 8 percent advance to
206,000 from 191,000).
An ABC Family spokesman noted that the network also grabbed a record number
of women within the aforementioned demographic during the fourth quarter.
On a household basis, ABC Family registered a 13 percent increase in
primetime ratings to a 0.9 in the fourth quarter, up from a 0.8 in
The network's 25 Days of Christmas had viewers in the holiday spirit. The
franchise grew 25 percent to a 1.5 household average in primetime, delivering a
29 percent increase in households to 1.22 million and a 28 percent in total
viewers to 2.04 million.
The holiday-programming gambit also produced a 17 percent rating rise among
adults 18 through 34 to a 0.7, translating into a 15 percent leap in delivery to
326,000 of those viewers.
Among adults 18 through 49, 25 Days of Christmas scored a 14 percent ratings
gain to a 0.8 and a 28 percent expansion in delivery to 836,000 viewers.
As part of that stunt, original film Three Days, starring Kristin Davis, posted a 4.1
household rating during its Dec. 9 premiere from 8 p.m. to 10