The TV Answer Man!

Disney, Altice: We Have a Deal ‘In Principle’

Disney and the cable operator Altice announced last night that they have reached a new carriage agreement in principle, and will extend its current pact to hammer out the details.

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“We have reached an agreement in principle and have extended the deadline accordingly to try and finalize the terms,” the statement read.

The current carriage agreement was set to expire at 5 p.m. ET last night. Disney was threatening to remove its channels, which include Disney Channel and ESPN, if a new deal was not reached by then.

The temporary agreement, and likely final deal to come, means that Altice’s 2.6 million video customers in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut will not miss Tuesday’s Wild Card MLB game between the New York Yankees and the Minnesota Twins, as well as other shows on Disney-owned channels.

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While the ESPN-Altice stalemate directly impacts a relatively small number of subscribers, the negotiation is likely being viewed closely by other pay TV operators which have said they want to carry fewer niche sports channels to save money.

In addition, to reduce subscriber fees, some pay TV ops have also removed ESPN from certain programming plans. (ESPN demands high carriage fees so pay TV ops have to pay more if they carry it in every plan.).

Bloomberg News has reported that Disney has been demanding that Altice carry the ACC Network and the SEC Network as part of the new carriage agreement. The article also said Disney wanted Altice to include ESPN in more programming packages.

The companies have yet to reveal contract terms. But if Disney is successful in securing Altice carriage of the two niche channels — and get the cable operator to put ESPN in all or most plans — it could set the tone for future talks with other pay TV operators.

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— Phillip Swann