Dish Network has filed lawsuit against Univision over the Spanish-language channel’s plan to livestream Mexican professional soccer games, in English, on Facebook Live.
The news site Cablefax wrote that it had seen a heavily redacted version of the complaint, which was filed in New York’s Southern District federal court earlier this month; the crux of the suit is Dish’s contention that Univision is violating an affiliate agreement that includes a prohibition on free livestreams. Back in 2012 at the International Consumer Electronics Show, the two companies announced a multi-platform agreement to launch three new Univision networks — one of which was Univision Deportes, which broadcasts the Liga MX games in Spanish.
According to the report, Dish alleges a Univision violation for “allowing linear services to be distributed for free via the Internet or a wireless cellular provider.” Though the Univision Deportes television broadcast and the company’s Facebook Live stream are in different languages, Dish is said to claim they are too similar, even reportedly quoting an interview with Olek Loewenstein — Univision Deportes’ senior vice president of strategy and operations for sports — gave to Sports Video Group in which he explained that the two version of the soccer match originated out of the same control room albeit with a different audio path and the use of a switcher toggling graphics between languages.
Cablefax quoted part of the complaint: “It has undermined the value of Dish’s licensing and distribution deal with the Univision Entities, by making covered content available for free through a third-party distributor. And it has and will undoubtedly cost Dish profits and the goodwill of its subscribers and potential subscribers, who are less likely to purchase Dish services or the necessary subscriptions to access its Liga MX content, since games can be viewed for free on the Internet or through a wireless cellular provider.”
A spokesman for Univision Communications Inc. provided SportTechie with this statement: “UCI is disappointed in Dish’s decision to file this suit. For more than a decade, UCI has partnered extensively with Dish to make it one of the most popular TV distribution services with Hispanic America. More people are watching our Liga MX games on our existing Spanish-language cable and broadcast TV networks, as evidenced by our year over year increase in Nielsen TV ratings.
“We are always looking for innovative ways to build audiences with new platforms. In fact, UCI was one of the first media companies to support Dish by making its popular Spanish-language broadcast and cable networks available on Dish’s Sling TV service. We have also sought to expand the Liga MX audience by offering a select number of matches via a new English-language service on Facebook.”
Dish did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The sports media industry has seen a proliferation of livestreamed broadcasts over social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as Yahoo and Amazon, which will show the NFL’s Thursday Night Football games this fall. Those deals are generating big cash, too: Twitter streamed last year’s Thursday NFL games for $10 million while Amazon had to reportedly offer for $50 million to secure this year’s package. The continued dissemination of sports content over so many platforms could well entangle broadcast rights deal in future legal challenges, especially in cases such as this one in which the matter of differentiation will be debated.