Dish Network, Disney reach trailblazing deal

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Posted: Wednesday, March 5, 2014 12:00 am

Dish Network Corp. reached a groundbreaking agreement to carry Walt Disney Co. programming, gaining rights to offer Disney, ABC and ESPN shows over the Web in addition to its satellite pay-TV service.

The multiyear deal, which also ends a legal standoff between the companies over Dish’s AutoHop ad-skipping technology, is the first between Disney and a pay-TV provider to include so-called over-the-top program rights. It will allow Dish to offer Disney shows as part of a future Web-based subscription-TV service.

“The creation of this agreement has really been about predicting the future of television with a visionary and forward-leaning partner,” Joseph Clayton, Dish’s chief executive officer, said Monday. The deal creates “a model from which to deliver exciting new services tomorrow.”

In signing Disney, Englewood, Colo.-based Dish gains a head start against other pay-TV providers contemplating selling monthly programming packages over the Internet.

Such products would break cable-TV companies free of their geographic boundaries. They also would allow satellite systems such as Dish to offer interactive features that their services now lack.

With the Disney agreement, Dish customers will have access to shows via televisions, smartphones, tablets, game consoles and other connected devices.

Dish, the second-largest U.S. satellite-TV service, and Disney, the largest entertainment company, reached the deal after months of negotiations. As part of the accord, Dish will delay the availability of its AutoHop feature, which lets customers skip ads on recorded programs on the broadcast networks.

AutoHop will now be available three days after the original broadcast. Previously it was available after 24 hours. The three-day window is important to broadcast networks because they can sell advertising based on the extended viewing, Disney Chairman Robert Iger said last month.

“We knew early on we had a responsibility with this deal to not only do what was best for our business, but to also position our industry for future growth,” said Anne Sweeney, co- chairman of Disney’s Media Networks division.

The deal is the first content renewal for Dish with a major television network since it launched AutoHop, Drew Crum, an analyst with Stifel, Nicolaus & Co., said in a research note.

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