So, Cablevision is the people's cable company, now? It's fighting for every citizen irate about rising cable bills. It's standing up to Viacom and saying: "Stop gouging us. You're giving us no choice but to take advantage of hard-working Americans - it breaks our heart."
Last week, ESPN executive David Preschlack testified the "most favored nation (MFN)" provisions of contracts between distributors and programmers are "intended to be very specific." Yet, a 2005 agreement hammered out between ESPN and Dish Network has left plenty for interpretation - at least for Dish. The past few weeks have seen the satellite operator argue in federal court that ESPN failed to honor multiple MFN obligations over a period running between about 2006 and 2009. On Wednesday, following at times biting closing arguments, the case went to a jury - a group that may not have known MFN had …
Dish Network's case charging ESPN with multiple breaches of a 2005 carriage agreement will move to closing arguments Wednesday. But no matter who wins, what will be the long-term impact? Will the matter affect negotiations between the two sides on a new carriage deal as their current one is scheduled to expire in September?
For years now, advertisers and networks have hungered for pay-TV operators' set-top-box (STB) data. For good reason. The argument can easily be made its sturdier information than a Nielsen sample.
One of the more striking aspects of the continuing trial between Dish Network and ESPN has been the steadfast presence of David Preschlack in the courtroom. As head of affiliate sales for ESPN and Disney media networks, it's not as if Preschlack has extra time on his hands. But he's sat alongside his lawyers day after day, hour after hour listening to often repetitive and mind-numbing testimony. Why? Friday he said the matter is "a very important thing not only for our company, but for me personally."
It's hard to recall a commercial network making such a curious play -- or one at all -- to get into public broadcasting. No, "Downton Abbey" hasn't been acquired by one of the Big Four networks. CNBC's move is much lower stakes.
A network ESPN has deemphasized has a key role in a trial, where Dish Network is charging the sports programmer with violating contract provisions, costing it millions of dollars. Among other accusations, Dish alleges ESPN failed to provide it with terms in line with what Comcast agreed to pay to carry ESPN Classic under a "most favored nation (MFN)" clause.
With its massive NFL deal and presumably a renewal with the NBA coming, ESPN can continue to count on hefty per-subscriber fees that look to cross the monthly $7 mark in 2017. Based on distribution in 100 million homes, that would give it an annual take of about $8.4 billion in affiliate fees alone.
Over the next two years, if Congress chooses to get deeply involved in curtailing station blackouts, the Satellite Television Extension and Localism Act (STELA) offers a venue. The legislation covering an assortment of issues involving how satellite operators - principally Dish Network and DirecTV - offer local stations is set to expire at the end of 2014.
Since he took over Discovery, CEO David Zaslav has taken some pretty big swings. He's rebranded channels (one twice); launched a network with Oprah Winfrey; and even invested in a European sports network - a property about as unrelated to the company's portfolio as some TLC shows are to reality. But he's also showed a willingness to bide his time at the plate, taking pitches until he gets one to his liking.