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.
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.
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