Walt Disney has threatened to pull its programming from the fourth largest US cable distributor, Altice USA, if the two parties can not reach a deal before the end of the month, the cable company said on Sunday.
The two parties have been working on a new contract to replace the one that expires at the end of the month, and Walt Disney has warned customers that its channels will go dark on October 1 if a new deal is not worked out, according to media reports.
Altice USA said that Disney was asking it to "pay hundreds of millions of dollars more in retransmission costs and sports programming fees, among other outrageous anti-consumer demands" - including demanding double the rates for ABC for the same content it offers today and "exorbitant" fee increases for ESPN, and trying to force customers who don't receive ESPN to have to pay for it.
"We are always working hard to negotiate carriage agreements that reflect the best interest of all our customers", the No 4 cable provider in the U.S. said in a statement.
Most Optimum subscribers live in the northeastern states of New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.
Disputes between cable companies and media groups over the cost of carrying channels are common, but the dispute marks the first time a cable company has pushed back at increased fees for ESPN, the most popular sports network.
In its own general statement mass distributed to media outlets, Disney wrote it is "fully committed to reaching a deal" and is "hopeful" it can do so, adding it has never had a disruption of service for what it described as its "family of networks".
Altice USA also said that viewership of the threatened programming by Optimum customers has been declining in the double digits "for years".