Disney Warns AT&T Subs About ABC, ESPN Blackout

The Walt Disney Co. on Monday night began warning subscribers to AT&T’s video services that they could lose networks including ABC and ESPN unless a new distribution agreement is reached.

AT&T, which owns DirecTV, Uverse and AT&T Now, just got over a nearly two month blackout of CBS and TV stations owned by giant broadcaster Nexstar.

“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. However, we remain fully committed to reaching a deal and are hopeful we can do so,” Disney said in a statement.

In a statement, AT&T said it was disappointed that Disney was putting viewers in 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," AT&T said. 

"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 said.

Disney has set up a website to tell its site of the situation

“Unfortunately, so far 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. If a deal is not reached soon, DirecTV and AT&T video subscribers could lose access to ABC, ESPN and more,” the website said.

The website ads that viewers have choices other than DirecTV and AT&T to get video programming, including Disney-owned Hulu + Live TV.

Jon Lafayette

Jon has been business editor of Broadcasting+Cable since 2010. He focuses on revenue-generating activities, including advertising and distribution, as well as executive intrigue and merger and acquisition activity. Just about any story is fair game, if a dollar sign can make its way into the article. Before B+C, Jon covered the industry for TVWeek, Cable World, Electronic Media, Advertising Age and The New York Post. A native New Yorker, Jon is hiding in plain sight in the suburbs of Chicago.