New Year’s Eve could be a bit less celebratory for Verizon Fios TV subscribers if the pay-TV provider doesn’t come to an agreement with Disney.
The two media companies are negotiating a new contract to keep Disney’s channels including ESPN, Disney Channel and ABC stations in New York and Philadelphia among subscribers’ channel choices. But the current contract expires Dec. 31 and both sides are currently playing hard to please.
Notices that channels could go dark on Fios have been shown on W-ABC TV channel 7 in New York and emails have been sent to Fios customers about ESPN’s potential departure right before the lineup of New Year’s Day college football bowl games. “You could miss them all!” the email said.
For its part, Verizon has been notifying subscribers via email – and an online post – that “we have been negotiating a renewal agreement to keep (Disney’s) networks, which include those from Disney and ESPN, as well as ABC affiliates in Philadelphia and New York, in our lineup.”
Verizon charges that Disney wants the telecom giant to “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.
Disney also is demanding Verizon add the ACC Network to keep the current Disney channels it offers, Verizon says. “The rising cost of programming is the biggest factor in higher TV bills and we are standing up to networks like Disney, refusing to accept these huge increases,” Verizon says.
“We are actively negotiating with Disney to ensure the best deal for our customers,” Verizon said in a statement to USA TODAY.
Disney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
This standoff comes as Disney, which launched a $4.99-monthly ESPN+ streaming service in April, prepares to launch another subscription offering in 2019 called Disney+. In the works for that service are new movies and series new stories based on the “Star Wars,” “High School Musical,” “Monsters Inc.” and Marvel comics franchises.
Verizon has about 4.5 million Fios video subscribers in Delaware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Providence, Rhode Island, Virginia and Washington, D.C. Verizon also has 6 million Fios internet connections and an additional 945,000 high-speed internet connections.
Frustrated consumers just want the two media giants to come to terms, based on comments posted on Twitter. “The ONLY people that suffer during a carriage fight is the CUSTOMER,” posted one Twitter user.
“FIGURE IT OUT or I won’t be a Verizon customer for much longer,” posted another.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Mike Snider on Twitter: @MikeSnider.
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