Bristol, CT- September 18, 2014 – ESPN Campus: ESPN sign (photo by Joe Faraoni / ESPN Images)

Right before a New Year’s Eve deadline, Verizon and the Walt Disney Company reached a new carriage agreement, preventing a potential blackout of several big college football games (including the National Championship Game) on ESPN after January 1.

The two companies issued a joint statement:

Verizon and The Walt Disney Company have reached a broad-based distribution agreement. Details will be released in the coming days.

The current agreement between Disney and Verizon Fios was to expire at midnight December 31. It would have not only affected ESPN, but its sister networks like Disney Channel, Disney XD, and Freeform, plus ABC stations in New York and Philadelphia.

Disney had run messages last week on WABC and WPVI that the stations were in danger of being removed from Verizon Fios, but the new agreement averts a blackout of Saturday’s NFL Wild Card game which will be simulcast on both ABC and ESPN.

But as one dispute closes, another one looms. This one is between Cox and Nexstar stations:

UPDATE: Cox and Nexstar have reached a last-minute agreement preventing a blackout and keeping its stations on the air in several markets. It took a lot of bluster on both sides, but viewers in several markets across the country will not see any interruption in viewing their favorite shows and sporting events.

Cox and Nexstar are battling to the midnight hour, and this dispute affects not just local CBS stations as listed above, but also NBC stations in six markets, and three ABC affiliates from Hartford, CT to Panama City, FL.

Not only are the NFL playoffs affected on all stations, but also the NHL Winter Classic, college basketball, golf, NBA and other events.

It’s another example of two media companies fighting over money. Cox contends Nexstar is asking too much in compensation for its stations. Nexstar will say Cox is not bargaining in good faith.

No matter what, it’s the viewers that are left in the middle without any recourse. They could cancel and get antennas to watch their stations over the air, or even change providers (whether it’s satellite or streaming services), but either of those options carries some inconvenience. (And switching providers thanks to one carriage dispute doesn’t always work; what if the new provider then has a dispute with a different channel you want?)

So we’re waiting for another dispute to get resolved. Whether it results in a blackout or a last-minute reprieve, it means that consumers are left holding the bag.


About Ken Fang

Ken has been covering the sports media in earnest at his own site, Fang's Bites since May 2007 and at Awful Announcing since March 2013.

He provides a unique perspective having been an award-winning radio news reporter in Providence and having worked in local television.

Fang celebrates the four Boston Red Sox World Championships in the 21st Century, but continues to be a long-suffering Cleveland Browns fan.