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Walt Disney and Verizon have struck a new carriage agreement, avoiding a showdown that might have taken popular ESPN college-football games away from subscribers of Verizon's Fios service in the first days of 2019.
"Verizon and The Walt Disney Company have reached a broad-based distribution agreement. Details will be released in the coming days," the companies said in a joint statement.
The current contract between Disney Media Networks and Fios had been set to expire on Dec. 31, and Disney has started to run messages on networks like ESPN and Freeeform this past Wednesday morning, and also on Disney-owned ABC stations like New York's WABC and Philadelphia's WPVI.
Verizon's Fios reached about 4.6 million subscribers at the end of 2017. In the third quarter of this year, Verizon said it lost 63,000 video subscriptions, "impacted by ongoing shifts away from linear video offerings," but notched a "net add" of 54,000 Internet connections.
Content producers and content distributors have placed more emphasis on the financial terms of their contracts in recent years, sometimes resulting in blackouts. Dish and AT&T's HBO are currently battling over a contract, for instance, and the result has been a days-long blackout of the popular pay-TV outlet on the satellite company's service.
Federal regulators take a dim view of such stuff, because they put consumers in the middle of a fight between two corporations and offer them little recourse. Since 2010, subscribers to cable and satellite companies have worked through more than 800 blackouts, according to the American Television Alliance, an advocacy group that represents cable, satellite and telecommunications companies. In 2017, the group counted 212 such events.