With less than 48 hours to go before Thursday's deadline, Time Warner Cable and Disney announced Tuesday that they have made "significant progress" in negotiations over carriage fees.
If a deal goes through, it will mean that Time Warner's nearly 15 million subscribers will continue receiving Disney and ESPN networks. The months-long standoff has inspired a wave of attack ads from the two media giants, as well as rival cable network Verizon FIOS.
A deal before Thursday night would be good news for football fans in the Los Angeles area, many of whom feared that losing ESPN would mean they couldn't see the University of Southern California opening game against Hawaii.
On Tuesday, the two companies released nearly identical statements on the two websites they have launched to keep customers apprised of talks.
"Disney/ABC, ESPN and Time Warner Cable have made significant progress in our negotiations for continued distribution of ABC, Disney and ESPN networks and services. We are now focusing all our attention on a successful conclusion of these efforts prior to the September 2 deadline," the Disney statement reads.
At the heart of the dispute is the rate Disney's most popular networks want to charge Time Warner for retransmission of its programming and for its online sports service ESPN3.com. Analysts expect that in exchange for averting a blackout, Disney may hike its fees by 5 to 10 percent, amounting to concessions of up to $110 million annually. That increased cost will likely be passed along to consumers.
The clash between Time Warner and Disney is just the latest example of high profile retransmission fights be waged between cable companies and content creators. This type of brinksmanship already resulted in millions of viewers in the New York area being unable to watch the start of the Oscar ceremony last spring because of a dispute between Cablevision and Disney.