The Programming Battle Lines Are Drawn

The Programming Battle Lines Are Drawn

As not only an advocate for those who purchase programming to serve their subscribers but also as a consumer of video products myself, I found the following in my inbox from my communications provider yesterday to be pretty poignant.

As you may know, we must periodically renew our agreements with TV content providers to be able to provide you with the programming available on Fios® TV.

Despite what you may be hearing from Disney, we have been negotiating a renewal agreement to keep their networks, which include those from Disney and ESPN, as well as ABC affiliates in Philadelphia and New York, in our lineup.

Disney is currently proposing that Verizon pay hundreds of millions of dollars more for its programming, despite the fact that many of its key networks are experiencing declining viewership. In addition to the proposed rate increase, Disney is also demanding we include, and pay for, another regional sports channel, the ACC Network, in order to continue bringing you all the other Disney and ESPN networks we do today. The rising cost of programming is the biggest factor in higher TV bills and we are standing up to networks like Disney, refusing to accept these huge increases.

We’ve given Disney a reasonable offer to continue providing you access to its networks. Unfortunately, as of today, they have rejected our offers and there is a possibility that we won’t be able to reach an agreement with them prior to our contract expiration on December 31, 2018 at 5pm EST.

Rest assured, our goal is to reach a fair agreement allowing you to continue to have access to the networks you enjoy today while securing an agreement that is in the best interest of our customers.

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This message raised a number of immediate thoughts for me – first and foremost is that if a HUGE carrier like Verizon doesn’t have the scale and ability to negotiate with the likes of Disney/ESPN, what hope could small operators possibly have in this world of unbalanced negotiations between the programmers and the carriers.  The second was that I thought Disney was playing an interesting game of “chicken” as the incoming Congress will be tasked with renewal of STELA legislation in 2019 and consumers being shut of programming for higher fees seldom makes a compelling lobbying platform. And last?  I was wondering how this will impact sports fans like my husband right as we head into college football bowl season? Thankfully, the Holiday Bowl with Northwestern and Utah will beat that deadline, as will Michigan in their Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl game…whew!

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