Sling TV regains ESPN and more as Disney dispute settled

Sling TV logo
(Image credit: Future)

Late yesterday (Oct. 2) Sling TV subscribers regained ESPN and other Disney-owned channels they had lost. Sling (opens in new tab) announced the 48-hour nightmare is over — at least temporarily — as the two sides reached a "handshake agreement."

That's according to a statement from Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution obtained by Deadline (opens in new tab). "As a result," the statement continues "we are pleased to restore our portfolio of networks on a temporary basis while both parties work to finalize a new deal." This, of course, suggests that it could all go wrong again — even though that would be something of a surprise.

An unexpected surprise is how this whole story started out early Saturday (Oct. 1), when Sling's statements on the topic included the note that "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)."

If this handshake can turn into a firmed and final contract, Sling will likely keep its spot at the top of our best cable TV alternative list, and in our best streaming services list as well. These disputes are somewhat, sadly, normal, as Disney and YouTube TV feuded in December 2021, resulting in a 48-hour loss of those channels for YouTube TV. That said, the loss of those channels was less of a surprise, as YouTube TV had warned of the possibility for a week.

Sling, on its website, is not mentioning anything about the temporary nature of this deal. Its updated web page (opens in new tab) for the news regarding its loss of Disney-owned channels reads "All of your Disney & ESPN channels have been restored! We sincerely apologize for your interruption in programming. Thank you for your patience and understanding."

This means the following channels are now available once more on Sling TV: 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.

Analysis: How this went wrong, and how Sling could make good

As noted above, YouTube TV handled its Disney kerfuffle much better in 2021, so that audiences were less likely to be surprised. The weekend-long loss of channels is annoying either way, and it's good to see that Sling's outage didn't last longer than YouTube TV's.

The lack of any warning was highlighted by angry customers on Twitter. User @arnoldrm09 (opens in new tab) replied to Sling's initial announcement angrily, stating "Are you feeling kidding me, Sling? Why are we just hearing about this, at 3AM? We just upgraded our subscription to get the ESPN and sports channels. And we are having a bunch of people over for the Georgia game tomorrow! I guess that won't be happening."

Sling did not announce any sort of compensation for this outage, which is one way it could have improved things with customers. In contrast, YouTube TV offered lower pricing when this happened, stating "We will be decreasing our monthly price by $15, from $64.99 to $49.99 while this content remains off of our platform" — but since that only took place for 2 days, it's hard to see how much people benefitted. 

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.