Video-streaming rights are at the heart of a negotiating stalemate that could
take ESPNews off Charter Communications Inc. systems at the end of June.
With the contract expired and the parties having broken off negotiations for
distribution of the news service, ESPN said it expects to deauthorize the signal
as of June 30.
Charter spokesman Andy Morgan said Thursday, 'We have reached an impasse over
a variety of issues' and 'ESPN is requiring us to discontinue carriage.' He
added that Charter has begun notifying franchise officials and consumers about
the time frame for the cessation of the service.
Some 1.35 million Charter subscribers currently receive ESPNews.
'We had a deal in place,' ESPN spokesman M.C. Antil said Friday. 'The primary
issue is not money. The issue is the restriction of ESPN's rights to distribute
our content and restrict consumer access to our content. At the 11th hour,
Charter introduced language that restricted our ability to distribute our
content. We don't offer anybody exclusive rights.'
Antil said Charter did not want ESPNews to stream content to ESPN.com. The spokesman said ESPNews occasionally
sends images of its press-conference coverage to the Web site.
The ESPN spokesman said Charter's provision set strictures on the number of
minutes for any one streaming feed and the amount that could be transmitted over
the course of a month. 'Their maximum requirements were minimal,' he added,
declining to be more specific.
Charter officials were not immediately available to comment about ESPN's
contract contentions Friday.
Earlier, the Charter spokesman said the MSO's ESPNews homes consisted of
890,000 analog customers and about 470,000 digital customers in Wisconsin,
Michigan, Texas, Tennessee, West Virginia, Georgia, Oregon and Washington.
Although the ESPN spokesman said the ESPNews content transport to the Web
site was 'not that great right now,' The Walt Disney Co. unit wants to keep its
options open. 'We don't know where this distribution form will take us in the
future,' he added,
Currently, rights agreements prohibit ESPN from streaming game coverage of
professional or college sports.
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