Charlie Ergen’s satellite TV company is calling foul on Disney for making it pay for ESPN at a time when there is no live sports programming, The Post has learned.
Ergen’s Dish Network, the nation’s fourth largest TV provider, is pushing for refunds that it says it will pass along to its roughly 12 million subscribers by lowering their bills, one source said.
“Charlie Ergen is trying to get out of the ESPN contract by claiming force majeure,” a second source told The Post, referring to a contract clause that frees the parties from obligations due to an extraordinary event.
Disney’s ESPN has rebuffed the request, the second source said. But the sports network could soon be deluged with such requests, said analyst Rich Greenfield in a Tuesday analyst report, without mentioning names.
“US multichannel video subscribers effectively paid ESPN $650 million in April to watch one original series with literally no live sports on TV or for their talk show hosts to even talk about,” the LightShed Partners report said.
“The multibillion dollar question becomes: what is stopping distributors from invoking force majeure? We believe there has to be a tipping point where enough sports have not occurred that distributors will refuse to pay sports network programmers.”
Greenfield said he’s heard that “multiple” multichannel video subscribers may have already informed ESPN that affiliate fees should not be paid starting in April 2020 because sports content is not being delivered as promised in their affiliation agreements.
Dish, which declined to comment, has the most TV subscribers after Xfinity, DirecTV ad Spectrum.
“While the next steps are unclear, it’s evident that Disney/ESPN expect to collect their $10/month from 80+ million subscribers, regardless of when sports content comes back, even if that does not occur until late summer, at best. Not a good look for The Walt Disney Company. This should make for some very interesting Q1 2020 earnings calls in the weeks ahead.”
Ergen’s Dish is known to take the lead when it comes to battling sports broadcasters over fees, including in July 2019 when the TV provider dropped 16 Fox regional sports networks from its lineup during a fee dispute.