Customers subscribed to Verizon’s Fios TV could lose access to ESPN and ABC if there’s no deal to renew a contract with Walt Disney Company. The possibility of this happening has become so real that Verizon mailed subscribers on Wednesday warning that the contract between the two companies will end on December 31st. Negotiations are still ongoing between the two companies. Verizon wants to get Disney-owned content into its Fios platform. However, so far, Disney has rejected all offers made by the company.
According to the email sent to subscribers, Disney is demanding hundreds of millions of dollars for the content. Disney is also demanding that Fios carry additional channels as part of the deal. Fios has over 4.5 million subscribers. On the other hand, Disney says that Verizon has refused to “reach a fair market-based agreement.” The company also started to run messages notifying Fios customers that they could actually lose access to Disney-owned programming. The company said that it was really working hard to make sure that the content is available to Fios subscribers urging Verizon to do its part too to make sure that this content is available to its community.
This clash comes at a bad time though, especially for football fans. ESPN and ABC are scheduled to air several college football bowl games on New Year’s Day. There will also be one NFL Wild Card playoff game early next year on the two channels. If a deal is not reached before then, football fans will have to find an alternative way to watch the games.
However, this is not the first dispute between content providers and distributors. In November this year, 2.5 million Dish Network customers lost access to HBO after the two companies failed to renew their agreement. Distributors are also facing a lot of challenges with the emergence of cheap online streaming services. As a result, they’re trying to keep costs low in order to survive but the demands made by content owners are making this impossible. The American Television Alliance says that since 2018, there have been at least 137 cases where millions of clients lost access to various channels due to financial disputes between the distributors and the content creators.
But it’s not just the distributors who have had to deal with this. Even online streaming services have had to renegotiate contracts to license content. Just recently, Netflix had to pay $100 million to keep the popular sitcom “Friends” on its platform. This dispute between Verizon and Disney also comes as the latter gets ready to launch its own streaming service next year. Disney wants to sell its content directly to consumers and has made it clear that its intention is to have all the content it owns streamed on this platform.
The sad thing though is that when these companies get into such disputes, subscribers are left in the middle. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to know for how long you will have access to certain channels and there are enough examples to suggest that content creators are ready to pull out channels if they have too.