During Monday Night Football on Sept. 9 Disney warned AT&T, DirecTV and DirecTV Now customers of the chance that ESPN, Disney Channel, Freeform and other channels might be dropped if negotiations fail.
The on-screen message even provided a phone number to call AT&T and complain about the issue.
“AT&T has refused to reach a fair, market-based agreement with us, despite the fact that the terms we are seeking are in line with recent marketplace deals we have reached with other distributors,” said the message to DirecTV customers.
AT&T responded to the primetime broadcast message:
“We’re disappointed to see The Walt Disney Co. put their viewers into the middle of negotiations. We are on the side of consumer choice and value and want to keep Disney channels and owned-and-operated local ABC stations in eight cities in our customers’ lineups.”
The Disney-owned channels up for renewal also include eight local ABC stations: WABC Channel 7, KABC Channel 7, WTVD ABC 11, KGO ABC 7, KTRK ABC 13, KFSN ABC 30, WLS ABC 7, and WPVI ABC 6.
Customers were not privy to a hard deadline, but those channels could be dropped as early as this weekend. You may have also figured out that if ESPN goes that means no Monday Night Football.
These types of distribution contracts typically extend to the end of the month though, so if negotiations were to fail the channels would at least be available until Sept. 30.
What will likely happen is a last-minute agreement on carriage terms. At least, that’s what usually happens and what consumers can hope for. And, neither party wants to upset customers to the point of losing them as subscribers and viewers.
However, the AT&T/DIRECTV dispute with CBS lingered over several weeks last summer until an agreement was finally made. During that time, millions of AT&T/DIRECTV customers were without CBS stations and networks like CBS Sports Network and Smithsonian Channel.
That would be the worst-case scenario, especially since we are only at the beginning of the NFL season. If there is a blackout don’t forget there are other ways to watch Disney channels besides through a TV service. Hulu+ Live TV, PlayStation Vue, YouTube TV are viable streaming options, while local ABC stations can be watched over-the-air, or possibly through app channels found on streamers like Roku.