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Disney Warns ESPN, ABC Could Be Blacked Out for AT&T Subs

BURBANK, Calif.—2019’s record-setting blackout trend could continue, as the Walt Disney Co. has issued a warning to AT&T video services subscribers that local ABC channels, ESPN, Disney networks and Freeform could soon be taken off the air unless the two sides reach a new distribution agreement.

Disney’s contract covering these networks is set to expire soon and if it does would result in a blackout for viewers of ABC stations WABC, KABC, WTVD, KGO, KTRK, KFSN, WLS, WPVI and all markets for ESPN, Freeform and Disney networks.

Disney said in a statement that it is committed to reaching a deal and is hopeful that one can get done, but it has created a website to provide information to subscribers about the impact of the blackout.

“Over the past few years we reached dozens of multi-year deals with cable, satellite, telco and streaming service companies all across the country …” Disney wrote on the website. “Inf fact, we have had only ONE service disruption in our recent history due to a contract dispute. The terms we are discussing with AT&T are in line with recent marketplace deals we have reached with other distributors. So it has been disappointing that so far AT&T has refused to reach an agreement.”

The website also informs AT&T subscribers that these channels are available via other video service providers like Comcast, Verizon and streaming services like YouTube TV, PlayStation Vue and Hulu + Live TV.

AT&T issued its own statement in regard to the negotiations: “We’re disappointed to see The Walt Disney Co. put their viewers into 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. 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 out this matter.”

This is not the first distribution issue AT&T has dealt with in 2019, as it recently ended a nearly two-month blackout of CBS and TV stations owned by Nexstar.

Some of the programs that would be unavailable to AT&T customers if a blackout were to occur would include local news, “Jeopardy,” “Modern Family,” and NFL and college football.