Disney, Altice USA Reach Agreement in Principle

Altice USA said it has reached an agreement in principle with The Walt Disney Co. regarding carrage of its networks in the New York metro market, and have extended their existing carriage contract as they work to hammer out the terms of the new deal.

In a brief joint statement the two companies said simply they had "reached an agreement in principle and have extended the deadline accordingly to try and finalize the terms."

Altice's Optimum customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut were expected to go dark at 5 p.m. Sunday if a deal wasn't reached. The fact the parties avoided a black out and managed to reach at least a tentative deal comes as a surprise as most analysts had expected at least a brief impasse. The deal means New York Yankees fans in the area won't miss the American League Wild Card game scheduled for Oct. 3 on ESPN.

Terms of the new agreement were not disclosed. Altice did not say how long the deal would be extended as it worked on terms.

Disney and Altice had been at loggerheads for weeks over negotiations, the first big test of Disney's clout with distributors after steep subscriber losses at its ESPN sports network over the past several years.

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Disney had reportedly been asking for large carriage fee increases for ESPN as well as increases in mandatory carriage minimums for the network, which some say would prevent Altice from offering skinny bundles of programming without the sports network. It also was reportedly requiring that Altice carry two regional sports channels -- SEC Network and the ACC Network as part of the deal.

No word on what, if any, additional Disney channels Altice USA will carry in the New York market. The cable operator has repeatedly said it was willing to pay a reasonable fee for the networks.