Dish Network Expands High-Definition Programming on Heels of Disney Deal


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On March 18 DISH Network LLC announced that its customers would soon be able to view four popular channels - ESPNU, ESPNews, Disney East, and ABC Family - in high-definition (HD.)

The company marketed the announcement heavily to college basketball fans by posting team-specific memes on its Twitter and Facebook accounts featuring new mascot Hopper the Kangaroo:

“With the first round of the National Invitation Tournament on ESPNU tonight, college basketball fans will be able to see every jump shot and buzzer beater live on DISH in HD,” said Dave Shull, DISH executive vice president and chief commercial officer. “We know how much our customers value quality HD programming and we are pleased to be the leader in college sports.”

The expanded HD programming stems from a deal DISH reached earlier this month with Walt Disney Company.

The long-term carriage agreement settled a fee dispute between the companies that originated in 2007 and culminated with the June 2010 loss of HD on the previously mentioned four channels for DISH customers.

It also settled the question of whether DISH would modify its controversial ad-skipping feature, Auto Hop, on its Hopper HD DVR. The company will now require its customers to wait three days after the airing of an ABC show before they can use Auto Hop. ABC is owned by Walt Disney Company and was one of several channels, along with CBS, Fox, and NBC, that featured the Auto Hop option during playback of primetime shows.

Perhaps more importantly, the deal marks the first time that a content owner such as Disney has granted a cable or satellite television operator digital rights to sell their shows outside the traditional pay-television subscription.

It could pave the way for DISH to offer an Internet television option separate from its satellite service.

"Disney is saying, 'If you want to create an Internet service that is not simply an enhancement to what (subscribers) already get … you have the rights to do that,'" said Phil Swann, president of

Outgoing Disney/ABC Television Group President Anne Sweeney said "this agreement [is] one of the most complex and comprehensive we’ve ever undertaken ... Not only were innovative business solutions reached on complicated current issues, we also planned for the evolution of our industry.”

Image via Wikimedia Commons