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ESPN, other Disney channels are back on Sling TV after contract dispute

Update October 3: A weekend away was all it took for Disney and Sling TV to come to an agreement that restored the channels owned by the former on the streaming service owned by the latter.

“All of your Disney & ESPN channels have been restored,” Sling TV announced on its website. “We sincerely apologize for your interruption in programming. Thank you for your patience and understanding.”

It’s a “handshake agreement,” according to a statement Disney gave to Deadline on Sunday evening. The deal “properly reflects fair market value and terms for The Walt Disney Company’s unparalleled content.”

There’s still no word on which company might potentially have been acting unreasonably, though.

Original, from October 1:

If you’ve awakened this Saturday, the first of October, only to realize that you’ll be unable to watch a bunch of college football, your favorite Disney show, or a good handful of other channels on Sling TV, there’s a good reason for that. Sling TV’s contact with Disney has run out, and the two companies failed to reach an agreement in time for you to keep watching the things you’re paying to watch.

This isn’t unusual — we’ve seen it before with pretty much every streaming service, from YouTube TV to Hulu and, of course, Sling TV.

Sling TV on Apple TV.
Sling TV

As to where you should direct your ire? Sling says it’s Disney’s fault. “Our goal and priority is to reach an agreement with Disney that ensures you get the best possible value from Sling,” the company said on its “promise” page of its website. “We are working to bring your channels back as quickly as possible.” It went on to say that “We offered Disney a contract extension to keep working towards an agreement and avoid any interruption to your service. They refused this offer.”

This always comes down to money, but we have no idea whether Sling’s offer was reasonable, or of Disney’s ask was too high. But Sling did say that “Disney, like many other channel owners, use this contract renewal period to try and increase the amount of money companies pay for their programming. Disney hopes that by doing this, you will get upset and ultimately contact Sling to put pressure on us to accept their higher rates.”

On the flip side, Disney likely would say that Sling’s offer doesn’t meet the cost increases necessitated by the growing market across all sectors something something business something.

It’s a tired back-and-forth that ultimately affects subscribers more than anyone, and it will end in one of two ways: Either the companies come to terms and the channels return, or they don’t. Sling, for its part, didn’t say anything about whether its monthly fees will be prorated while the nearly three dozen channels are gone.

It’s just a question of who blinks first.

Here are all the channels that have gone dark on Sling TV:

  • ABC News Live
  • ACC Network
  • ACC Network Extra
  • BabyTV
  • BabyTV
  • BabyTV Arabic
  • BabyTV French
  • BabyTV Latino
  • BabyTV Mandarin
  • BabyTV Portuguese
  • Disney Channel
  • Disney Jr
  • Disney XD
  • ESPN
  • ESPN 2
  • ESPN 3
  • ESPN Deportes
  • ESPN OnDemand
  • FX
  • FXM
  • FXX
  • Freeform
  • Jimmy Kimmel Live
  • Longhorn Network
  • Nat Geo
  • Nat Geo Mundo
  • Nat Geo Wild
  • Polish
  • SEC Network
  • SEC+

Sling TV is believed to be the third-largest live streaming service in the United States with about 2.2 million subscribers. It’s behind YouTube TV (more than 5 million subs) and Hulu With Live TV (4 million subs). Sling TV is available on every major streaming platform. Its claim to fame is its $35-a-month plans that have fewer channels that you might be used to, but that you augment with optional “Extras” to build out your service. It’s not quite a la carte streaming, but it’s as close as we can get.

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Phil Nickinson
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