Walt Disney Co. and Verizon Communications Inc. have reached a broad carriage accord, averting a potential blackout of the ESPN Inc. family of networks; other cable services, including Freeform (US) and Disney Channel (US); as well as a pair of ABC (US)-owned TV stations.
The renewal, terms of which were not disclosed, was announced on the morning of Dec. 30. The agreement came as the parties faced the expiration of their carriage deal at 5 p.m. ET on Dec. 31.
The parties said: "Verizon and The Walt Disney Company have reached a broad-based distribution agreement. Details will be released in the coming days."
In addition to working on bridging differences over price, the companies were evidently negotiating for carriage of the ACC Network, a new sports network kicking off in August with coverage of football, basketball and other sports from the collegiate Atlantic Coast Conference.
On a customer support website, the telecommunications giant, which counts some 4.50 million video subscribers, wrote that Disney had been "proposing that Verizon pay hundreds of millions more for its programming," even though many of its key networks have sustained "viewership declines." Verizon also said Disney wanted it to pay to carry the ACC Network "in order to continue bringing you all the other Disney and ESPN networks we do today."
ESPN networks had been alerting Verizon FiOS customers on their "bottom line" crawl and through commercials that they could miss upcoming college football bowl games, including the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, an NFL Wild Card playoff game on Jan. 5, and the Jan. 7 College Football Playoff national championship game. The collegiate title tilt is typically ESPN's most-watched telecast of the year, with previous match-ups in 2015 and 2018 yielding the two most-watched telecasts in cable TV history. That messaging ended Dec. 29.
With the deal, Verizon FiOS TV customers will not only be able to watch the aforementioned football fare and a host of other bowl games on New Year's Day, but WABC viewers in New York and WPVI in Philadelphia can ring in 2019, with Ryan Seacrest leading ABC's coverage of "Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve" from Times Square on Dec. 31.