News Ticker

Will DIRECTV Drop ESPN?

Q. I was watching the game last night and there was a commercial from ESPN saying DIRECTV might drop ESPN. Is that true? If so, when will it happen? And if it does, I’m gone. That’s the last straw! — Quinn, Kansas City. 

Quinn, you are not alone. Many DIRECTV subscribers are nervous this morning after seeing ESPN viewer alerts during its Monday Night Football broadcast that said the satellite TV service could soon drop the popular sports channel.

Update: It appears on Sunday morning (September 15) that a deal is done. See TVAnswerman.com for more information.

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The alert included a telephone number that viewers could call to get more information. When you call the number, a recorded message explains that DIRECTV could not only soon lose ESPN, but it could also lose the entire suite of Disney-owned channels. That includes the Disney channel, Disney Jr., ABC in select markets, the new ACC Network, the Longhorn Network, and Freeform.

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The blackout would also include other AT&T-owned video services, such as U-verse and AT&T TV Now (formerly DIRECTV Now.)

Now, let me explain what this means, and whether you are likely to actually lose your channels.

First, the viewer alert does not mean that the channels will be removed. Disney and AT&T are negotiating a new carriage agreement, which means they could sign a new pact before the current one expires. And if they do, the channels will stay.

But if they don’t sign a new deal, Disney might pull the channels as leverage to force AT&T to accept their terms. The companies could also sign an extension, allowing the channels to remain on the AT&T services while negotiations continue. (They did that five years ago when they negotiated their last deal.)

We don’t know exactly when the current agreement ends, but it’s likely September 30. (The existing agreement started on September 30, 2014.) AT&T has posted a notice in USA Today that alerts U-verse subscribers that they could lose the Disney-owned channels sometime in September.

The ESPN viewer alert would suggest the negotiations are not going well. Disney obviously placed the warning to get DIRECTV subscribers upset, which could pressure AT&T to soften its stance. But it doesn’t mean that the companies won’t settle before September 30. It just means they are at an impasse now.

I will continue to monitor this situation in the coming weeks, and report back here when I get more information. Until then, happy viewing!

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— Phillip Swann

About TV Answer Man (1687 Articles)
The TV Answer Man is veteran journalist Phillip Swann who has covered the TV technology scene for more than two decades. He will report on the latest news and answer your questions regarding new devices and services that are changing the way you watch television.

17 Comments on Will DIRECTV Drop ESPN?

  1. Phillip, thanks for covering this unfolding situation and providing the contractual background. While I would certainly miss college football, I would actually like to see ESPN and Disney get hammered in this negotiation. ESPN got themselves into their own financial mess by paying $18B for rights to the NBA, and then unloaded some of their best broadcasting talent to reduce their overhead. They bought the rights to Formula 1 and have proceeded to ruin those broadcasts with mercurial scheduling and second-rate commentary as compared to the prior channel’s traditional team.

    ESPN has enjoyed the ability to bid outrageous sums for various sporting events and league broadcast rights because they can pass on the cost as part of basic cable programming. Verizon FiOS is now offering subscriber options that don’t include any sports packages, and hopefully AT&T will hold the line and tell ESPN that the bottomless well is now dry.

  2. Good. Get rid of Disney content. All of it. I’m sick of paying for it. Nix ESPN and I’ll remain an AT&T Now customer.

    • Mark, I hadn’t heard about FIOS offering a NON sports package.
      What does it cost and how much ?
      DirecTV has the “SELECT” package, NO sports. Goes for about $ 58.00
      If you don’t watch sports it is a good deal.
      Let me know FIOS’s price

  3. In my opinion AT&T will cave and sign a deal before Disney/ESPN has a chance to drop the channels.

    Why? Because..
    DirecTV is the primary feed to just about every sports bar in America. No Monday Night football, no crowds at Buffalo Wild Wings. Any extended blackout of ESPN channels and all the respective sports bars will lb forced to look for other providers in order to maintain theirbusiness.

    AT&T would be the ultimate loser of this battle as they lose these businesses which pay way more for their service than household subscribers.

  4. NFL ST is an lock in for the year so the sports bars can’t drop it.

    • Great reply on that…I never thought of the sports bar situation…but I am now out of contract and would probably dump DTV if they dump ESPN….

  5. Rusty Shackleford // September 10, 2019 at 6:04 pm // Reply

    When ESPN shows the message on its “Bottom Line,” DirecTV actually blacks out the strip where the BL is..

  6. You are correct on ST, however, besides Monday Night Football ESPN, carries a whole lot of other sports that people visiting sports bars are interested in, so a loss of ESPN for any length of time will cause backlash from the owners of these establishments.

  7. If I can’t watch sports or espn .. I would drop direct tv and I would never come back bc of it.. espn is that important.. sorry

  8. I’m sick of all this crap… customers pay for the service n all of a sudden it’s taken away. I wish everyone would drop their cable subscriptions n see who hurts the worst….didt have it when I was growing up n we lived on

  9. DONALD MARKOVITZ // September 11, 2019 at 9:11 pm // Reply

    I DONALD MARKOVITZ, WOULD LIKE TO SAY THIS I AM IN A NURSING HOME IN FLORENCE, AL AND DIRECTV JUST GOT A NEW DEAL WITH NEXTSTAR OUR FOX STATION WAS GONE FOR ABOUT A MONTH NOW WE HAVE IT BACK SAME THING HERE MONEY GREED THAT’S ALL IT IS WE WILL GET A DEAL

  10. kimberly lanette quinn // September 12, 2019 at 3:03 am // Reply

    Direct TV/ AT& T better stop playing games. I live in central CA. We just got NBC and CBS back. This needs to stop

  11. Direct tv is the worst company for customer service the channel are own by Disney which your local channel alike ABC. Will go be gone to

  12. Linda, You are correct that Disney owns ABC, however, local channel contracts are negotiated separately from the ESPN/Disney bundle of channels, so unless your local ABC affiliate is also up for renewal you will not lose that channel if ESPN/Disney goes dark.

    I also agree that DirecTV’s customer service has steadily declined since the acquisition by AT&T as well as adding any new features. They are also the only provider that does not include the channel Icons in their guide view. Hoping Dish Network can somehow acquire them from AT&T

  13. After being with Xfinity/Comcast for 17 years, I made the switch to U-Verse because they were offering half the price for double the speed (TV/Internet package). Signed a 1 year deal. ESPN is on multiple hours a day in the background.. will I be able to cancel my contract?

      • How do you like U-Verse ?
        It is just a slight up graded version of DSL.
        Depends how “CLOSE” you are to the U-Verse Box in your neighborhood if it even works. SPEED gets slower by the foot.
        Remember, U-Verse is working on AT&T’S OLD (1 Pair) Copper Phone analog wire from the U-Verse BOX, to your HOUSE.
        Stuffing HIGH Speed Internet, High Definition TV and 2 phone lines into a OLD 1 Pair slightly twisted wire is marginal for any good results.
        Also a AT&T U-Verse “sales person” does NOT know anything about this and will tell you anything to make their commission.
        What did they say about the second year price ?

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