Editorial: EchoStar, Disney and the real deal

Jan 7, 2002  •  Post A Comment

EchoStar Communications may indeed have a good reason for wanting to drop the ABC Family Channel from its DISH network satellite service, but we have yet to hear it.
Until Jan. 10, there is a court order preventing EchoStar from dropping The Walt Disney Co.’s ABC Family from the 6.4 million-subscriber DISH network.
In a press release defending its position, EchoStar stated that it’s simply “trying to protect its customers from Disney, a giant media conglomerate that has imposed rate increases well beyond the rate of inflation.” The release goes on to cite Disney rate increases for its ESPN service, “which has raised its rates by a compounded 20 percent each year from 1998 to 2001.”
So what? Though DISH no longer carries ESPN Classic, it does carry ESPN, despite the rate increases. Why? Well, we would imagine that lots of DISH subscribers like what they see on ESPN. And ESPN pays millions for the rights to show all the sports it does. The release gives no numbers on the ABC Family increases Disney is asking for.
EchoStar’s citing increases for ESPN as a reason not to carry ABC Family is a red herring. If EchoStar wants to cite numbers, let’s hear the facts. What is it paying, per sub-right now-for ABC Family? Is it a fair price? How does it compare with other, similar services? How much does Disney want per subscriber? Is that fair? Has EchoStar polled its 6.4 million subscribers to get their input?
With EchoStar’s pending acquisition of rival DirecTV, we’re not comfortable with EchoStar’s wanting to drop ABC Family without knowing the real facts of the case. What we don’t want to see is a very powerful 17 million-subscriber-strong EchoStar/DirecTV dropping services willy-nilly when some satellite subscribers may not have real alternatives to get the dropped services.