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Volume 26 No. 86
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ESPN Warns "MNF" Viewers Of Possible AT&T Blackout

ESPN used the opening “MNF” game of the season to warn viewers that its channels may go dark on DirecTV, AT&T Now and AT&T U-Verse in the coming weeks. Disney’s overall carriage deal with AT&T ends at the end of the month; the deal covers all Disney channels, including ESPN, SEC Network and ACC Network, as well as local ABC stations in eight cities. The fact that ESPN started warning viewers suggests that the two sides are not close.

AT&T and ESPN have had a busy summer of carriage negotiations. CBS channels went dark on DirecTV and AT&T for more than two weeks earlier this summer; Nexstar channels went dark for more than two months this summer and carriage negotiations with Viacom and A&E went public in the spring. In August, Disney signed a sweeping carriage deal with Charter and launched the ACC Network, which it spent months trying to convince U.S. distributors to carry. ESPN: “We have a responsibility to make our viewers aware of the potential loss of our programming.” AT&T: “We’re disappointed to see The Walt Disney Co. put their viewers into the middle of negotiations.”