Verizon agrees with Disney to avoid blackout of ESPN, other channels

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Dec. 31 (UPI) — Verizon and the Walt Disney Co. have reached an agreement that will┬ásidestep an interruption that would’ve blacked out several major television channels for millions of the carrier’s customers.

Verizon Fios customers faced a blackout starting Jan. 1 of Disney-owned channels if the two sides continued with a disagreement over programming fees. Some of the major channels included in the dispute are ABC and ESPN — which will broadcast the NFL playoffs and college football’s national championship game next week. ABC affiliates in New York City and Philadelphia would’ve been included in the blackout.

The companies had until Monday afternoon to reach a deal and avert the blackouts. They agreed to the resolution Sunday.

ESPN is the most expensive channel for distributors, commanding more than $8 per month, per subscriber.

“Our proven history of providing extraordinary value to consumers and distributors is unmatched,” an ESPN spokeswoman said in a statement.

Verizon had said it’s standing up to Disney and refused to accept large fee increases, hikes that would’ve been passed on to millions of Fios subscribers.

The negotiations remained quiet for months, but Disney pressed the issue this week by running ads on TV warning customers the channels could be blacked out beginning Jan. 1. Verizon quickly responded to its customers via email.

“Despite what you may be hearing from Disney, we have been negotiating a renewal agreement to keep their networks,” Verizon wrote in the email. “Disney is currently proposing that Verizon pay hundreds of millions of dollars more for its programming, despite the fact that many of its key networks are experiencing declining viewership.”

Verizon says it has more than 5 million Fios video subscribers.

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