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Disney Warns Fios Customers of Looming Snag in Carriage Talks

Viewers of Disney-owned networks like ABC and ESPN have begun to see messages telling them that the TV outlets may no longer be available to subscribers of Verizon Fios, the latest example of two big media companies clashing over terms of carrying content to consumers.

The current contract between Disney Media Networks and Fios is slated to expire soon, and Disney began running messages on networks like ESPN and Freeeform Wednesday morning, and also on Disney-owned ABC stations like New York’s WABC and Philadelphia’s WPVI. “Our proven history of providing extraordinary value to consumers and distributors is unmatched,” Disney said in a statement.” Our negotiations continue in earnest and we remain optimistic that we can reach a deal.”

“We are actively negotiating with Disney to ensure the best deal for our customers,” Verizon said in a statement. The contract is slated to end at 5 p.m. on New Year’s Day.

Verizon’s Fios reached about 4.6 million subscribers at the end of 2017. In the third quarter of this year,Verizon said it lost 63,000 video subscriptions, “impacted by ongoing shifts away from linear video offerings,” but notched a “net add” of 54,000 Internet connections.

The potential showdown is the most recent to surface as content producers and content distributors continue to grapple over financial terms. Dish and AT&T’s HBO are currently battling over a contract, and the result has been a days-long blackout of the popular pay-TV outlet on the satellite company’s service.

Federal regulators take a dim view of such stuff, because they put consumers in the middle of a fight between two corporations and offer them little recourse. Since 2010, subscribers to cable and satellite companies have worked through more than 800 blackouts, according to the American Television Alliance, an advocacy group that represents cable, satellite and telecommunications companies. In 2017, the group counted 212 such events.

An ad prepared by Disney for Fios customers reads “Don’t Lose Your Shows” and features pictures of WABC anchors as well as logos for various college-football bowl games that ESPN is slated to broadcast over the next several days.

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