×

Disney Says Carriage Talks With Altice Could Reach Impasse

Disney and the cable company once known as Cablevision are at it again.

The two companies, whose fractious carriage negotiations in 2010 resulted in viewers in New York and Connecticut missing 13 minutes of ABC’s broadcast of the Oscars awards ceremonies, are heading for an impasse in current discussions, according to Disney. Altice NV purchased Cablevision Systems in June of 2016 for about $10 billion. Its Altice USA unit serves more than 4.6 million customers, and is one of the biggest content distributors in the nation. Disney controls such popular networks as ABC, ESPN, Disney Channel and Freeform, among others.

Richard Greenfield, a media industry analyst with BTIG Research, said in a recent note that he believes the current discussions entail carriage rights for Disney’s cable portfoilo and retransmission rights for ABC’s owned-and-operated stations. “We believe negotiations between the two sides have deteriorated and the odds of a carriage interruption are growing quickly,” Greenfield wrote.

“Our contract with Altice is due to expire soon, so we have a responsibility to make our viewers aware of the potential loss of our programming. We remain fully committed to reaching a deal and are hopeful we can do so,” Disney said in a statement. “Our company has never had a disruption of service for our family of networks and there is no reason that should change now.”

Subscribers to Altice’s Optimum cable service on Friday night reported seeing scrolling messages at the bottom of their screen on feeds of ABC’s New York station telling viewers they could be in danger of losing ABC programming if talks did not progress.

Altice in a statement suggested Disney sought “double the rates for ABC for the same content they offer today” and “exorbitant fee increases for ESPN.”

“We are always working hard to negotiate carriage agreements that reflect the best interest of all our customers.,” Altice said. “We want to carry ESPN and its sister networks, including ABC and Disney, at a reasonable rate and have already offered an increase in retransmission fees and sports programming costs.”

Disney countered those claims, noting “For broadcast basic, Altice charges its customers $34 which is more than 15 times  the amount we are seeking for the market’s most watched station, WABC.”

The discussions could pose a real test for both sides. Since the last time they two companies struck a carriage deal, much has changed. Cablevision is now part of a much larger company, while Disney is under much more intense scrutiny related to the financial performance of its cable networks – ESPN in particular.  The sports-cable juggernaut, which has spent heavily to secure programming rights for “Monday Night Football” and other live-sports events, has recently been trimming its employee roster while fending off concerns about remarks made on social media by various anchors.

In remarks made on September 7, Disney CEO Bob Iger suggested a feeling of optimism.  ESPN, he said, “is strong and its array of sports rights is also deep and quite attractive and so we have all the confidence in the world that as we enter our new cycle of extensions with the traditional distributors that we’re in – we’re well-positioned.  We intend to drive a significant value in those negotiations, I think you have to look at it as a blend of distribution and price, I don’t want to get specific about it, but as we enter these negotiations, one that we’re in the middle of right now, we intend to use the strong hand that we have with the brands that we have as we negotiate these new deals and position us well going forward.”

More TV

  • 9-1-1: LONE STAR: L-R: Rob Lowe

    TV Ratings: '9-1-1: Lone Star' Starts Strong Behind NFC Championship Game

    “9-1-1 Lone Star” got off to a flaming start for Fox in the TV ratings behind the NFC Championship game. The Rob Lowe-fronted series premiere to a 3.2 rating among adults 18-49 and 11.5 million viewers in the time zone-adjusted ratings, which represents easily the best scripted debut of the 2019-2020 season. “Lone Star” had [...]

  • Ariel Winograd'TOD@S CAEN' film premiere, Los

    Viacom International Studios Signs First Look Deal with Ariel Winograd (EXCLUSIVE)

    MADRID  — Adding to a powerful and still growing talent roster, Viacom International Studios (VIS) has clinched a first-look deal with Argentine writer-director Ariel Winograd whose latest movie, “The Heist of the Century,” has just become one of the biggest Argentine openers in history. The multi-year pact takes in the development and production of not [...]

  • William Bogert Dead: 'Small Wonder' Actor

    William Bogert, Who Appeared in 'War Games,' 'Small Wonder,' Dies at 83

    TV, film and theater actor William Bogert, who appeared in a recurring role on 1980s sitcom “Small Wonder” and in films such as “War Games,” died Jan. 12 in New York. He was 83. On “Small Wonder,” which ran from 1985 to 1989, Bogert played Brandon Brindle, the Lawsons’ neighbor and Harriet’s father who became [...]

  • Editorial Use OnlyMandatory Credit: Photo by

    TV Ratings: NFL's AFC, NFC Championship Games Down From 2019

    The NFL’s AFC and NFC championship games made for a blockbuster Sunday of football for CBS and Fox, but viewership of the games that determine the contenders for the Super Bowl was down from 2019 levels. CBS’ AFC championship in the 3 p.m. ET afternoon slot delivered 41.1 million viewers as the Kansas City Chiefs [...]

  • Medici TV Show

    Vuulr Online Rights Market Makes Global Expansion at NATPE

    Singapore-based Vuulr, an online content marketplace for film and TV rights, is expanding from regional to global operations. The move was announced ahead of NATPE, one of the oldest face-to-face TV rights markets, this week launching its tenth edition in Miami, Florida (Jan 21-23). The Vuulr platform is free to use for buyers and for [...]

  • What to Watch on TV This

    What to Watch on TV This Week: ‘Picard' Premieres and 'Shrill' Returns

    Welcome back to Tune In: our weekly newsletter offering a guide to the best of the week’s TV. Each week, Variety’s TV team combs through the week’s schedule, selecting our picks of what to watch and when/how to watch them. This week, “Star Trek: Picard” beams into existence on CBS All Access and “Shrill” returns [...]

  • SAG Awards 2020: What You Didn't

    SAG Awards 2020: From Charlize Theron to 'Parasite,' What You Didn't See on TV

    Brad Pitt made a crack about his marriages. Robert De Niro got political. And Jennifer Aniston talked about appearing in a commercial for Bob’s Big Boy. Those were just some of thing that happened on stage at the SAG Awards that were broadcast on TNT/TBS on Sunday night. However, Variety was inside the Shrine Auditorium [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content