Dish Wins A Carriage Charge Against ESPN
A jury found ESPN guilty of one charge involving a 2005 carriage agreement with Dish Network, but cast aside multiple other claims. Dish was awarded $4.9 million in damages, out of the $152
million-plus it was seeking.
The claim that brought Dish the award had it alleging ESPN offered several operators more favorable deals regarding ESPN Deportes, the Spanish-language network. Dish argued it was entitled to commensurate terms under “most favored nation” provisions. The $4.9 million verdict Thursday was only part of the $19 million Dish sought with regards to Deportes.
The jury denied Dish allegations that ESPN violated most-favored-nation provisions by offering Comcast the chance to move ESPN Classic to a sports tier in 2006, without giving it the opportunity. Financially, that was Dish’s largest claim at $79 million.
The jury also rejected a Dish claim involving a 2009 swap, where Dish moved ESPNU to its most highly penetrated tier and shifted Classic to a sports tier. Dish claimed it wouldn’t have had to make the move if it had been given the same rights as Comcast in 2006.
There were several other lesser claims, including one charging ESPN with breach of contract for allowing Time Warner Cable to make online streaming product WatchESPN available to customers on an authenticated basis.
ESPN said in a statement it was “gratified” by the decision. Stanton Dodge, Dish general counsel, stated: “To deliver the best programming at the best value to our customers, Dish will remain vigilant in our efforts to ensure that programmers honor their contractual commitments.”
The trial took several weeks in New York federal court and the jury began deliberating Wednesday.
Dish and ESPN have spent a good deal of time in litigation in recent years. ESPN and Disney have been awarded $71 million in a New York State Supreme Court case regarding HD feeds, but Dish is continuing to pursue the matter.
It is possible that the $4.9 million award will be rolled into any new carriage deal Dish and ESPN cut as the 2005 one is scheduled to expire in September.