Playing hardball with several programmers, EchoStar Communications Corp.
plans to make good on a threat to drop ABC Family effective Jan. 1, and is
making rumblings about the future carriage of ESPN Classic and some Fox Sports
Net regional outlets.
Last week, during his monthly 'Charlie Chat' session, EchoStar chairman
Charlie Ergen said his Dish Network service would remove ABC Family from its
lineup at the end of this year.
If so, ABC Family would lose an estimated 6.4 million of its 84.5 million
Ergen couldn't be reached for comment, but EchoStar spokesman Marc Lumpkin
confirmed the Jan. 1 switch-out of ABC Family.
'Its [ABC Family] pricing has not gone down, and yet its ratings have
fallen,' Lumpkin said.
The loss of EchoStar carriage would be a major blow to ABC Family and The
Walt Disney Co., which paid $5.2 billion to buy the channel.
ABC Family is now carried on Dish's basic package, 'America's Top 50.'
ABC Family could take a second hit if Ergen secures regulatory approval to
buy DirecTV Inc. and combines that direct-broadcast satellite service with
EchoStar's Dish Network.
If ABC Family were to lose its current DirecTV distribution - an estimated
10.3 million homes - its total subscriber loss would rise to an eye-popping 16.7