The exact date of the contract expiration wasn’t specified, but it is understood to be sometime in September, and would also apply to AT&T’s U-verse cable platform and internet-delivered AT&T Now.
If a blackout hits ESPN, it would also affect ABC, Disney Channel and Freeform networks, as well as Disney-owned local stations, including WABC in New York and KABC in LA. Also hanging in the balance is ESPN’s fledgling ACC Network as well as the college-sports Longhorn Network.
AT&T signals of Monday’s double-header featured not only the standard commercial spot warnings but also messages embedded in the on-screen ticker across the bottom of the screen.
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“Our contract with AT&T for the ABC, ESPN, Disney, and Freeform networks is due to expire soon, so we have a responsibility to make our viewers aware of the potential loss of our programming,” Disney said in a statement sent to Deadline. “However, we remain fully committed to reaching a deal and are hopeful we can do so.”
An AT&T rep passed along to Deadline the following statement in response:
“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. We hope to avoid any interruption to the services some of our customers care about.
Our goal is always to deliver the content our customers want at a value that also makes sense to them. We’ll continue to fight for that here and appreciate their patience while we work this matter out.”
AT&T has had impasses recently with CBS for its owned TV stations as well as Nexstar for nearly 120 local stations. Both were resolved but only after stations went dark.
Sports Business Journal had the first report of the latest dustup. Here are a couple of tweets showing the ways Disney got its messages out: