TV Answer Man, you’ve been reporting on these carriage fights for a long time. How long do you think Dish’s fight with Disney will last? I would like to cancel if it lasts a long time but it’s hard to know if that’s the right thing. Let us know!! — Gary, Troy, Michigan. 

Gary, Dish, and its live streaming service, Sling TV, early yesterday morning lost the entire suite of Disney-owned channels, including ESPN, ABC affiliates in eight markets (Dish lost ABC, not Sling, which doesn’t carry ABC), FX and several kids channels, among others.

Update: Dish and Disney strike new deal.

Dish/Sling are engaged in a fee fight with Disney with both sides claiming foul. Dish says Disney wants too much money while Disney says Dish refuses to pay rates that other cable and satellite operators are now paying.

As usual in these scraps, it’s nearly impossible to determine which side is telling the truth because the negotiations are not made public. But you should expect more unverifiable accusations before the dispute is settled.

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And when is that? When will Dish (& Sling TV) vs. Disney end?

The good news is that both sides have a strong incentive to settle sooner than later. Dish has already lost millions of subscribers over the last several years while Sling TV has lost 10 percent of its audience in the last year. The missing Disney channels will just trigger more defections, although Sling is more vulnerable here than Dish. To find out why, read our article.

Disney has cause to find common ground because Dish and Sling TV combined have more than 10 million subscribers. With the traditional pay TV universe shrinking due to cord cutting, Disney needs every cable/satellite/streaming subscriber it can get to maintain its ratings (and advertising revenue).

The bad news for Dish subscribers is that Dish is Dish. Or should we say, Dish is Charlie Ergen, the irrepressible maverick who runs the company unlike any other corporate executive in the pay TV business. Ergen, whose title is Dish chairman, is famous for playing hardball in carriage negotiations, which often leads to blackouts of several months or more. While Ergen understands the value of Disney, he won’t capitulate regardless of what others say, including his customers.

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Bottom line: I think Dish and Disney both have a strong motivation to negotiate in good faith, which should lead to a deal in a few weeks or less. It’s possible that will extend to a month with Ergen involved, but both companies would be hurt if it does. So the odds are good for a quicker settlement.

The TV Answer Man will monitor this situation and report back here if anything significant changes.

Until then, happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann