Disney, Dish extend contract while new deal talks continue

Reuters

Sept 30 (Reuters) - Walt Disney Co and satellite TVprovider Dish Network Corp agreed to a short-termextension of their current distribution deal, keepingDisney-owned channels on the air while the pair seek to bridgedifferences over carriage terms.

The companies are discussing a deal for Dish to continuecarrying programming including sports network ESPN, the DisneyChannel and ABC Family, according to a joint statement. Theydidn't say how long the contract extension would last, norprovide any other details on their discussions.

Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has previously complained aboutthe rising cost of sports programming. ESPN is the mostexpensive TV network, costing pay TV operators about $5.54 onaverage per subscriber each month, according to research firmSNL Kagan. Disney says it is getting paid for the value ESPNoffers.

On an Aug. 1 conference call with analysts, Ergen said hewas optimistic his company would reach a deal with Disney, butalso threatened to drop the channels if both sides couldn't cometo terms.

"If we get that deal we'll do it," Ergen said. "If we don'tget that deal, we'll part ways. Simple as that."

The talks between Disney and Dish also cover carriage of theABC broadcast network in major markets including New York, LosAngeles, and Chicago.

The negotiations follow a month-long blackout of the CBSbroadcast network in major cities when the parent CBS Corp could not reach a carriage deal with Time Warner CableInc. The two sides reached an agreement on Sept. 2.

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