SBD/Issue 238/Sports Media

Time Warner, Disney Advertising Heavily Around Carriage Talks

ESPN's "I Have Choices" Website Part Of
Advertising Around Carriage Negotiations

The Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Cable in their carriage talks are "engaged in a classic game of chicken, building toward a Sept. 2 deadline," according to Brian Lowry of FOXSPORTS.com. Such negotiations are "invariably settled at the 11th hour," but what is interesting about these negotiations is that both sides are "trying to enlist the public's aid and sympathy, including radio ads and dedicated websites." Time Warner's competitors, including DirecTV and Verizon FiOS, also are "bombarding the public with a steady stream of 'Drop Time Warner, switch to us!' full-page ads." Lowry noted a SNL Kagan survey indicated that ESPN is "by far the most expensive basic-cable channel, earning $4.10 a month per subscriber," and it is "not just serious fans and 'SportsCenter' junkies who shell that out, but grandmothers who live alone." Both Disney and Time Warner "know there are alternatives -- among them dropping cable and relying on Internet connections or services like Netflix." Lowry wrote despite the "posturing and finger-pointing, Disney and Time Warner will eventually reach a deal, but their war of words has already invited consumers to consider where their money goes" (FOXSPORTS.com, 8/24).

TAKING IT TO THE WEB: In Orlando, Sarah Lundy notes Time Warner also is negotiating for Bright House Networks in the talks, and both ESPN and Bright House said that they are "committed to reaching an agreement and that negotiations are ongoing." ESPN and Bright House "aren't saying much else, but they are using websites to 'educate' the public about what's happening." ESPN's site features a "countdown clock with days, hours, minutes and seconds left before the contract expires," while Bright House's site "tries to reassure viewers not to worry." Lundy notes ESPN also is "airing radio ads" about the talks (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 8/25).

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