Will Dish Network Play Hardball with Disney’s ESPN?

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While the recent Labor Day weekend brought good news to frustrated Time Warner Cable (NYSE:TWC) customers  – the cable giant finally settled its carriage dispute with CBS (NYSE:CBS) – Bloomberg reports that a very similar disagreement is brewing between Disney’s (NYSE:DIS) ESPN network and Dish Network Corp. (NASDAQ:DIS) — a dispute that could potentially thwart the excitement over the new football season.

Disney and Dish are currently looking at a September 30 deadline to negotiate the amount that Dish is required to pay for content as well as whether the satellite TV provider will be able to offer ESPN content through mobile. Both issues are analogous to those that caused Time Warner Cable and CBS to enter their month-long blackout. The current conflict between Disney and Dish could potentially see a fight equally drawn out, considering that ESPN is the most expensive pay-TV channel.

If the results of the Time Warner Cable and CBS debacle are any indication as to how the dispute between Dish and Disney will play out, the cards appear to be stacked in Disney’s favor. CBS ultimately negotiated significant price increases while retaining the digital rights. And while Bloomberg explains that Dish Chairman Charlie Ergen has spoken of holding down costs in recent months and has brought up the idea of dropping ESPN before, that’s not a popular idea for a television channel with viewership that extends far beyond that of die-hard sports fans.