Looking To Combat Sports Network Leverage -- Or At Least, High Fees

Nobody wants to be embarrassed by a bad TV carriage deal. Dish Network says it got the short end of the stick with ESPN – and is making that claim in a lawsuit now going to trial before a jury.

For one, Dish says ESPN breached a clause in the deal between the two companies requiring “the sports programmer to offer the same terms as it did to competitors,” according to a Reuters article.

Dish says Time Warner Cable and Verizon got a lower-cost subscriber deal for ESPN Deportes, the Spanish-language sports channel. Also it says Comcast was allowed to reduce its distribution of lower-demand ESPN Classic. That saves money for those distributors involved; Dish believes it should have the same.

One key bit information that hasn't been disclosed: How does one TV distributor know the specific details of another TV distributor’s deal?  Aren’t those private contracts?



For its part, ESPN is the biggest cable fish in the pond. For years, many industry estimates said ESPN commands some $5 a subscriber per month fees from TV distributors, easily the highest wholesale price for any network --broadcast or cable.

ESPN says Dish is "cherry picking" certain parts of TV distributors deal -- not  looking at the overall package.

Media consolidation arguments will continue to plague the business -- and ESPN always seems to have a target on its back because of its high price. At the same time, TV distributors are pressured to find ways to keep TV programming costs low.

Sports programming continually comes up as one area where critics believe consumers should pay more -- through separate programming tiers. While not addressing this point specifically, publicity for the Dish-ESPN suit adds fuel to that fire.

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