ESPN not bolting Sling TV, despite numerous out clauses in programming deal, report says

In 2014, Disney trepidatiously signed onto Dish Network's (NASDAQ: DISH) as-yet unlaunched platform to distribute pay-TV over the Internet, now known as Sling TV, with numerous contract clauses that allowed the programmer to pull its preeminent ESPN Network if the service grew too fast, or the channel lost too many linear subscribers.

As Bloomberg reported today, both dynamics have occurred, but Disney seems very far from pulling the trigger on these deal stipulations. An ESPN rep confirmed to FierceCable that the report about the contract language is correct.  

ESPN has lost more than 3 million linear TV subscribers since its broad-reaching agreement with Dish was signed in February 2014 — more than enough to provide Disney an out.

Further, with Sling TV reaching a current subscriber base of around 600,000 users since launching in February 2015, the service is now big enough to meet the terms of Disney's out clause, as well

As Bloomberg notes, Disney's decision to forsake its own built-in safety system shows how much the program conglomerate's thinking about online distribution has changed in 24 months. 

In February, for example, ESPN President John Skipper said at a Southern California business conference that his network was actually in discussions with Dish about expanding its relationship with Sling.

Meanwhile, Disney CEO Bob Iger recently told investors that his company is bullish about skinny bundles. 

"It's also important that ESPN be present in the skinny bundles, whether there are 2 million of them, 5 million of them, 10 million of them," Iger said earlier this month.

For more:
- read this Bloomberg story

Related articles:
PlayStation Vue lowers base tier price, adds ESPN
Verizon and ESPN move closer to settling skinny bundling lawsuit
ESPN is still the most 'valuable' channel to pay-TV operators, survey finds
Skipper: ESPN mulling other skinny streaming bundles beyond Sling TV

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