Mouse Hunt Snares Dish


Dish Network CEO Charlie
Ergen believed he didn’t have to pay for
four HD feeds from The Walt Disney Co.— so last week, the media company required
the satellite operator to drop them
from the lineup.

Dish customers early last week lost access
to Disney Channel HD, Disney XD HD,
ABC Family HD and ESPNews HD, and the
operator pointed the finger at Disney for
asking for “significant” carriage fees. Disney,
however, said Dish did not ever have a
deal in place to carry those channels.

The standard-definition versions of the
four channels are still available on Dish,
as are ESPN HD and ESPN2 HD. As of press
time last Friday, the parties had not reached
an agreement.

“Dish Network offers all customers ‘HD
Free for Life,’ which is possible because
we are committed to negotiating fair contracts
that allow us to keep our prices
low,” the satellite operator said in a statement.
“That is why we could not agree to
the significant fees requested by Disney
and ESPN Networks for the HD feeds of
Disney East, Disney XD, ESPNews and
ABC Family.”

Dish said it would continue to negotiate
with Disney and that it hopes “to reach
a fair resolution.” The “HD Free for Life”
promotion, set to run through September,
waives Dish’s usual $10-per-month HD
add-on fee for customers who commit to a
two-year contract.

Disney responded in a statement, “The recent
New York State Court ruling confirms
our position that Dish Network is not entitled
to carry ABC Family HD, Disney Channel
HD, Disney XD HD and ESPNews HD without
paying compensation. We hope that Dish
will work with us to reach an agreement so
that we can make these HD networks available
to their customers.”

The court ruling referenced was in a
breach-of-contract suit Dish filed in 2008
against ESPN and ABC alleging Disney did
not provide HD feeds of the Disney Channel,
ESPNews, Toon and ABC Family. In
March 2010, the New York court ruled that
Dish owes Disney approximately $65 million
under the applicable affiliation agreement.
Dish is appealing that ruling.

Dish, separately, sued ESPN last year alleging
that ESPN breached its contract by
not extending the same carriage terms the
programmer provided to Comcast and DirecTV.
Back in 2002, the satellite operator
dropped ESPN Classic for several months
in a dispute with Disney that involved ABC