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Judge denies Disney's request for injunction in fight against Dish Network

June 3, 2011 |  3:31 pm

TOYSTORY3

Fear not, Dish subscribers, you'll still get to watch "Toy Story 3" for free this weekend.

A federal judge denied Walt Disney Co.'s request for an injunction to stop satellite broadcaster Dish Network from offering its more than 14 million subscribers the pay TV channel Starz for free. Typically, Starz costs Dish subscribers about $13 per month, according to the distributor's website. Customers that were already paying for Starz  received other channels for free.

Dish started giving away Liberty Media's Starz earlier this year. The company said it was doing so as part of its 30th anniversary celebration. Starz was none too happy about this, nor was Disney, which sells its movies to Starz.

Last month, both Starz and Disney filed suits against Dish over the giveaway. Starz claimed Dish was violating the terms of its contract, and Disney argued that giving the channel away for free was hurting the value of its movies. Disney had asked for an injunction requesting Dish to stop giving the channel away while their suits play out in court.

In its suit filed in a Colorado District Court, Starz said its deal with Dish "does not permit Dish to simply give away its channels and content to its entire subscriber base." Starz said Dish was giving away the channel to placate customers who might be upset with other rate increases the satellite broadcaster has imposed. No trial date has been set with the Starz suit.

Disney filed its suit in U.S. District Court in New York City and charged that not only is the value of its movies being damaged, but that Dish's actions are hurting the studio's relationships with other networks and outlets that buy its content. Trial could start as early as December.

Dish, which declined to comment on the judge's dismissal of the Disney injunction request, has said previously that it "pays hundreds of millions of dollars for the right to distribute STARZ content to our customers, which includes the rights to a number of Disney movies, and our current distribution of Disney content on STARZ is permitted under our contract with STARZ."

Some industry observers say Netflix is at the root of the feud between Starz and Dish. Starz offers its content, including Disney movies, to Netflix, which Dish sees as a competitor, and that is what led to the giveaway, these people said.

-- Joe Flint

RELATED:

Disney and Starz sue Dish over giveaway

Starz may be getting ratings boost from Dish giveaway

Photo: Toy Story 3. Credit: Disney/Pixar.

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