Contract impasse between Bright House, Time Warner and ESPN ends with new channels for customers
Contrary to the alarmist suggestions in ads run by competitor Verizon, Time Warner, Disney and Bright House concluded their talks on a new contract without interrupting service for customers, hammering out a deal that brings new channels and services.
The agreement and the way it was reached may provide a new example for cable service companies and program providers, which have seen negotiations over new retransmission contracts grow so contentious, they routinely involve advertising and public relations campaigns directed at the public to explain any possible outage.
Weeks before the Sept. 1 end of the Time Warner/Bright House/Disney contract, competitor Verizon aggressively ran a series of ads in print, TV and radio suggesting its rival cable providers might lose ESPN and customers might consider Verizon FIOS as an alternative. Starting in early July, the company ran several full-page ads in the St. Petersburg Times, along with ads in New York City; Syracuse, N.Y.; Buffalo, N.Y.; Los Angeles and Dallas.
Instead, the companies kept Disney channels on its systems past the contract deadline. (Time Warner routinely negotiates channel agreements for partner Bright House Networks, the Tampa Bay area's dominant cable TV provider; at left, one of Disney's ads warning customers about the possible impasse)
And the resulting agreement brought some new channels and services, including the Disney Junior channel for preschoolers (available in 2012); ESPN3.com (once known as ESPN 360), the live sports broadband network allowing access to coverage over the Internet; a new service allowing access to ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU online; ESPN Goal Line, a super highlight channel available to sports tier customers; ABC on Demand, a video on demand service featuring the network's programming; Disney branded on demand offerings; local sorts content from ESPN; the Disney Family Movies on demand service; ESPN 3D on Bright House channels and more.
This seems the best way to end highly-publicized contract negotiations; with no service interruptions and a suite of new channels and services for customers. The question left unanswered: How will consumers' bills be affected by any possible fee increases -- CNBC estimated a $110-million increase -- demanded by Disney/ESPN?
Look below to see the press release from Bright House:
Agreement Includes Several New Services for Subscribers, Including Disney Junior, ESPN3.com,
ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Buzzer Beater and Expanded VOD Offerings
BURBANK and NEW YORK— Disney/ABC Television Group, ESPN and Time Warner Cable today entered into a long-term, wide-ranging agreement that will provide Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks cable customers the programming of ABC Family, Disney Channel, Disney XD, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Classic, ESPN Deportes, and SOAPnet, as well as WABC in New York, KABC in Los Angeles, WTVD in Raleigh-Durham-Fayetteville, WTVG in Toledo, and associated HD cable networks. Subscribers will also have unprecedented digital access to online content and expanded Video On Demand services.
This extensive and expanded rights package, Disney Media Network’s most expansive content agreement to date, provides for:
* The recently announced Disney Junior, a new 24-hour basic channel for preschool-age children, parents and caregivers. Available to Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks cable customers upon its debut in 2012, the new channel will feature animated and live action programming which blends Disney’s unparalleled storytelling and beloved characters with learning, including early math, language skills, healthy eating and lifestyles and social skills.
* The addition of ESPN3.com, ESPN's live sports broadband network, which will be available to all Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks subscribers who get ESPN. ESPN3.com gives Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks fans a 24/7 online destination that delivers more than 3,500 live, global sports events annually as part of TV Everywhere. This addition also gives Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks the rights to feature cleared content from ESPN3.com on its sports tier.
* Access to a new authenticated service, which will give Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks subscribers the opportunity to watch the linear networks ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPNU through their broadband services as well as mobile Internet devices, like an iPad. Details on the launch will be forthcoming.
* A new service, developed with Time Warner Cable, called ESPN Goal Line; a super-highlight channel that will be available only to Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks sports tier subscribers as early as September 4. ESPN Goal Line will take fans around the best matchups each Saturday during the NCAA football season. The once-a-week network will include live look-ins to game action focusing on scoring drives and up-to-the minute commentary from analysts and experts. A similar service called ESPN Buzzer Beater will be available for the college basketball season.
* Expanded VOD services in many markets will include:
* ABC On Demand, ABC’s fast forward-disabled VOD service which currently features a selection of primetime programming, including episodes of such popular ABC shows as “Castle,” “Grey's Anatomy,” “Private Practice,” and “Desperate Housewives.” Anticipated newcomers include “No Ordinary Family” and “My Generation.” Additionally, episodes of ABC News’ “Good Morning America” are available each week.
* Disney-branded On Demand offerings for kids, including Disney Channel On Demand and Disney XD On Demand. Refreshed each month, the Disney Channel VOD offering will include episodes from such series as “Handy Manny,” “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” and “Special Agent Oso” for preschoolers, as well as variety of episodes from “Wizards of Waverly Place,” “Hannah Montana,” “The Suite Life on Deck,” “Good Luck Charlie” and other popular series for older kids. Select episodes featured on Disney Channel On Demand will be available in multiple languages. Disney XD On Demand features a variety of episodes from such series as the Emmy Award-winning animated hit “Phineas and Ferb” and “Kick Buttowski – Suburban Daredevil,” as well as the upcoming sitcom “Pair of Kings.”
* Locally relevant sports content from ESPN in several Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks markets, including Los Angeles, New York, North and South Carolina, Tampa, Orlando, Texas and Ohio.
* The subscription VOD service “Disney Family Movies” which features a selection of classic and contemporary films and animated shorts from The Walt Disney Studios.
* A new transactional VOD service for select content from the Disney/ABC Television Group.
* Inclusion of a variety of content from across the Disney Media Networks’ portfolio on Time Warner Cable’s and Bright House Networks Start Over and Look Back features.
* The addition of ESPN Deportes HD to Time Warner Cable’s larger footprint.
* The launch of ESPN 3D to Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks’ systems.
* A Time Warner Cable/ESPN Deportes co-branded, Spanish language sports website in Los Angeles.
* Availability of ESPN Radio feeds in New York, Los Angeles and Dallas to Time Warner Cable’s video platform.
* A plethora of ESPN-branded content made available on Time Warner Cable’s and Bright House Networks’ sports tier.
“We are pleased to have reached an agreement without any interruption in service,” said Glenn Britt, Time Warner Cable’s Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We thank our customers for their support, and we look forward to launching these new and innovative products and services.”
Co-chairs of Disney Media Networks George Bodenheimer and Anne Sweeney also commented on the announcement, stating, “The successful conclusion of this wide-ranging deal demonstrates our commitment to our distribution partners and our ability to work with them to provide consumers with an unmatched portfolio of national and local entertainment, news and sports content while continuing to strengthen both of our businesses.”
“We’re pleased that an agreement has been reached with no disruption in programming for our customers,” said Steve Miron, Chief Executive Officer, Bright House Networks.