A few times per year, this situation presents itself. A network or group of networks and a TV provider have a contract renewal coming up that gets down to the wire and results in the channel(s) being pulled off the service with both sides giving a similar statement that say they’re committed to resolving the situation but subtlety blaming the other side for having it come to this. At the same time, viewers are pissed off and either choose sides or are upset at both sides for it getting to the point where viewers ultimately suffer.
Disney and Verizon Fios are heading toward a similar scenario. And with their contract up at the end of the year, the two sides have less than a week to get a new deal in place. According to Variety, both sides are prepping for the possibility that Disney owned channels will be off of Fios.
Disney began running messages on networks like ESPN and Freeeform Wednesday morning, and also on Disney-owned ABC stations like New York’s WABC and Philadelphia’s WPVI. “Our proven history of providing extraordinary value to consumers and distributors is unmatched,” Disney said in a statement. “Our negotiations continue in earnest and we remain optimistic that we can reach a deal.”
“We are actively negotiating with Disney to ensure the best deal for our customers,” Verizon said in a statement.
In terms of timing, this works well for Disney. Because ESPN is included in this, as they are a Disney owned network, that means Disney can leverage their position by making sure a deal gets done and Fios customers don’t miss ESPN’s one NFL Wild Card playoff game as well as the New Year’s Day bowl games and the College Football Playoff.
Previous potential carriage stoppages around major sports events have included Cox and KLAS in Las Vegas right before KLAS was set to broadcast the Super Bowl in 2016, NBCUniversal and Charter Spectrum right before the NFL playoffs in 2017, DISH and CBS before the 2017 Iron Bowl (did black out the Cowboys Thanksgiving game which brought on a lot of hate messages) and three local affiliates against Charter before this year’s Super Bowl. Other than the Thanksgiving game, those scenarios resulted in a deal being made before those big events were blacked out. Will that happen here? Well, we have about a week to find out. I’m sure if a deal isn’t done, we’ll see some very upset sports fans.