Jury orders ESPN to pay Dish Network $4.86 million

While Dish Network (Nasdaq: DISH) won a $4.86 million from its breach-of-contract suit against ESPN, the judgment from a federal jury on Thursday was far less than the $153 million it had been seeking.

Dish had alleged that ESPN gave favorable terms for carriage of networks such as ESPN Deportes, ESPN Classic and ESPNU to Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA), Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), Verizon (NYSE: VZ) and DirecTV (Nasdaq: DTV), breaching a most-favored-nation clause in a carriage deal it signed in 2005. But a U.S. District Court jury found that ESPN only breached the contract in the rate it charged Dish for Spanish-language channel ESPN Deportes. The sports network required Dish to pay up to 47 cents per subscriber for Deportes, while Verizon paid 3 cents per subscriber for its FiOS TV service and Time Warner Cable paid 8 cents to 18 cents per subscriber.

"We are gratified that the jury rejected all but one of Dish's claims and all but $4.8 million of the more than $153 million in damages they were seeking," ESPN said in a prepared statement.

Dish's carriage deal with ESPN, ABC and parent Walt Disney Co. (NYSE: DIS) will expire later this year. Dish CEO Joseph Clayton was asked last week about about the contract renewal talks, and the impact that Dish's AutoHop ad-skipping technology could have on negotiations.

"We are a big customer of Disney's. I would not expect them to take [ABC] down with the AutoHop as the reason. That being said, anything can happen. But normally, greed prevails, and there'll be a discussion, and it'll be a win-win for both companies," Clayton said on Dish's fourth-quarter earnings call.

For more:
- Reuters has this story
- The Hollywood Reporter has this story
- see transcript from Dish's Q4 earnings call

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