Ergen’s Dish files breach of contract suit against Disney’s ESPN

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Charlie Ergen’s satellite broadcaster, Dish Network, a unit of EchoStar, has filed a breach of contract suit against Walt Disney Co.'s cable sports behemoth ESPN.

The suit charges that ESPN gave Comcast Corp. and DirecTV better deals to carry ESPN Classic and ESPNU than it gave Dish and hence had violated a most-favored-nations clause in its contract. Both ESPN Classic and ESPNU are smaller sister networks of ESPN. Dish wants at least $1 million from ESPN it said in the suit, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

While suits like these often provide some juicy details on contracts and prices, this one is sadly lacking. Dish Network claims that it ‘understands’ that Comcast and DirecTV got more favorable deals, but it doesn’t elaborate, citing confidentiality agreements.


Dish is notorious for being a hard negotiatior in the industry, and Ergen has a well-earned reputation for being litigious.

ESPN said in a statement that: ‘We have repeatedly advised Dish that we are in full compliance with our agreement and have offered them a distribution opportunity with respect to ESPNU and ESPN Classic consistent with the rest of the industry. We will not renegotiate settled contracts and will vigorously defend this legal action, the apparent sole purpose of which is to get a better deal.’

— Joe Flint