A May 2012 advertisement from satellite service provider Dish Network touts the company’s sports offerings, but Dish threw the flag on the “Worldwide Leader in Sports” when it accused cable television sports programming giant ESPN of breach of contract. On February 28, a federal jury awarded Dish $4.86 million in one of its four breach of contract claims against ESPN, revolving around an eight-year licensing agreement the two companies agreed to in 2005. As the entertainment news website Deadline.com noted, the $4.86 million award was a mere 3.2 percent of the $153 million in damages sought by Dish.
The eight-year agreement included what is known as a most favored nation clause (MFN), meaning that the seller not only agrees to give the buyer the lowest price they can offer, but has to extend the same offer to the buyer if it offers a lower price to another buyer. In this case, Dish was arguing that ESPN should have given the satellite provider a better deal since it was offering lower prices to other distributors. Dish accused ESPN of allowing Comcast to remove packaging requirements and carry ESPN Classic on a special tier made up of little-watched channels. ESPN allegedly gave DirecTV, Verizon and Time Warner Cable lower subscription rates on the Spanish-language ESPN Deportes, and Dish accused ESPN of allowing others a la carte rights on ESPNHD, ESPN Classic, ESPNU and ESPN2. The only claim the jury agreed with was the issue over ESPN Deportes.
The day after the federal jury ruled in that case, cable television news network CNN filed its own breach of contract claim against the radio company formerly known as Westwood One. In November 2009, CNN began providing radio content to Westwood stations. The deal was set to expire in December 2012, but Westwood decided that it did not want to carry CNN programming about two months after Westwood merged with Dial Global Radio Networks in October 2011. According to the Mediabistro.com broadcast blog, TV Newser, the two sides amended their agreement to say that Westwood would pay CNN for the remaining year on its contract, but CNN is now seeking at least $2.35 million because it claims Westwood failed to make its final two payments.
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