A federal court in Los Angeles late Monday granted The Walt Disney Co. a
temporary restraining order barring EchoStar Communications Corp. from dropping
'Although we are heartened by this victory, this is not a permanent fix,''
Disney president and chief operating officer Bob Iger said. 'We remain concerned
about EchoStar's willingness to exercise its power at the expense of fair
competition and consumer choice as evidenced by the strong possibility that
EchoStar will discontinue ESPN Classic as early as midnight tonight.'
The federal court is expected to take up Disney's request for a permanent
injunction Jan. 10, when the temporary restraining order expires.
Following the court's decision, EchoStar said it 'stands firm in its belief
that it has the right to discontinue broadcasting ABC Family,' and it will
continue to contest the injunction.
The satellite-TV provider had said it would drop the channel midnight Monday
as it was trying to reduce the number of offerings its to match its satellite
EchoStar claimed the right to do so under a clause in its 1995 affiliate
agreement addressing ownership changes; Disney purchased the channel from Fox
Family Worldwide Inc. in October.
Disney countered that dropping the channel would in fact violate the 1995
agreement, which does not expire until 2005. Disney said the ownership structure
is intact and EchoStar is trying to bully it into lower subscriber fees.
EchoStar claimed that must-carry rules are forcing it to free up channel
space, while Disney noted that EchoStar plans to launch a new satellite that
will carry 200 additional channels.