ESPN ripped from Sling TV in Disney dispute — what to do now [Updated]

Sling TV logo
(Image credit: Future)

This is a rude awakening. Earlier today (October 1), Sling TV subscribers woke up to discover they don't have ESPN. Tom's Guide found this out when trying to find ESPN for the F1 Singapore Grand Prix live streams online, only to see ESPN (as well as FX and others) missing from Sling TV channels. Sling's parent company Dish is also affected, as it loses those channels, plus ABC.

The full list of channels removed from Sling are: ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, ESPN OnDemand, ESPNEWS, ESPNU, ESPN Deportes, Disney Channel, Disney Jr, Disney XD, ACC Network, ACC Network Extra, Longhorn Network, SEC Network, SEC+, Freeform, FX, FXM, FXX, Nat Geo, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, ABC News Live, Jimmy Kimmel Live, BabyTV, BabyTV Arabic, BabyTV French, BabyTV Latino, BabyTV Mandarin, BabyTV, Polish and BabyTV Portuguese.

Why did this happen? Disney and Sling TV failed to renew their contractual agreement — and it's all about money. Sling blames Disney, stating that: "Disney, like many other channel owners, use this contract renewal period to try and increase the amount of money companies pay for their programming."

Sling (opens in new tab) claims it "offered Disney a contract extension to keep working towards an agreement and avoid any interruption to your service," and that it's Disney's fault as "they refused this offer."

Sling also couched this as a way to keep Sling affordable, noting it wants to "reach an agreement with Disney that ensures you get the best possible value from Sling."

Disney hopes that by doing this, you will get upset and ultimately contact Sling to put pressure on us to accept their higher rates.

In an update to its FAQ about this problem, Sling (opens in new tab) apologized online for the sudden surprise nature of this outage, writing "We apologize as we know this seems sudden. We are also surprised. We believed that we were on track for a new deal until Disney walked away from conversations late Friday night (09/30/22). We offered Disney a contract extension to keep working towards an agreement and avoid any interruption to your service. They refused this offer. We are very disappointed but continue to fervently advocate for you as we speak. Sling will continue to fight to get you the lowest and fairest price for TV." Sling added that Disney wanted "nearly a billion dollars more" for the same content.

In a statement to The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab), a Disney spokesperson hit back, stating: "The rates and terms we are seeking reflect the marketplace and have been the foundation for numerous successful deals with pay TV providers of all types and sizes across the country. We’re committed to reaching a fair resolution, and we urge Dish to work with us in order to minimize the disruption to their customers."

Analysis: What can you do?

Sling is our top pick for the best cable TV alternative and also one of the best streaming services, but moments like this feel sadly normal in this industry. Disney and YouTube TV feuded in December 2021, resulting in a 48-hour loss of those channels for YouTube TV.

Right now, although we might be able to help you save on your costs with our Sling TV promo codes, Sling isn't offering customers any discounts to make up for the channel outage. Your two options are changing your channel package (say to remove Sling Orange, which should have ESPN) or if you need ESPN now, canceling and going to another popular competitor we recommend, such as YouTube TV, Hulu with Live TV or Fubo TV.

This is a developing story, will keep our eyes out for updates.

Henry T. Casey
Senior Editor

Henry is a senior editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.