ESPN and FX are among a number of Disney-owned channels that have gone dark on Charter Communications’ Spectrum cable systems since August 31st, due to a carriage dispute between the nation’s second-largest cable TV provider and Disney.
Both Charter Spectrum and The Walt Disney Company said in separate statements that negotiations have been going on for a while, and have met an impasse between Disney seeking higher rates for its channels, and Charter wanting more flexibility in the way it packages Disney’s channels, along with wanting to offer Disney+ at no additional cost to its cable subscribers.
As a result of not being able to come to an agreement, Disney on Thursday yanked its popular TV networks, which include ESPN, ABC, FX, and Disney Channel, from Charter’s Spectrum cable service, which reaches nearly 15 million homes, including many in big markets like New York City, Los Angeles, and Orlando.
What Disney Says
After pulling its channels, The Walt Disney Company issued the following statement, along with a plea to visit keepmynetworks.com:
“Labor Day weekend is traditionally one of the biggest sports weekends of the year. Viewers sit down to watch the anticipated return of college football and enjoy the tennis battles at the US Open.
Unfortunately, for millions of Spectrum cable viewers this has not been the case this holiday weekend, since ESPN and other Disney-owned channels like ABC are blacked out due to a dispute between Spectrum’s parent company—Charter Communications—and Disney Entertainment.
Disputes between cable companies and content providers aren’t new. However, millions of consumers may find themselves perplexed and frustrated by what’s going on.
To cut through the noise, here are some important points to consider as the dispute disrupts one of the biggest TV weekends of the year:
- Losing ESPN is a major issue for consumers since it’s one of the most popular channels. In fact, ESPN aired more than half (53) of the top 100 telecasts in Charter homes during the past year, per Nielsen, the leading audience measurement, data and analytics company. That includes all 5 of the top 5.
- In the average month, 71% of Charter subscribers tune into Disney’s networks or stations. In fact, Charter subscribers watched more than 3.3 billion hours of content on Disney networks and stations over the past year, according to Nielsen.
- Although Charter claims that they value their customers, they declined Disney’s offer to extend negotiations which would have kept Disney-owned networks up for consumers in the middle of perennial programming events like the US Open and college football.
- Even though Charter also claims to value Disney’s direct-to-consumer services, the cable company is demanding these different services for free—as they have stated publicly—which does not make economic sense. Moreover, it does not make sense for consumers who desire the flexibility to have our streaming platforms as standalone services.
- Labor Day weekend is supposed to be one of the more relaxing holidays of the year in the U.S. Unfortunately, Charter has made it a stressful one for its customers—many of whom have been experiencing up to three-hour hold times to cancel their cable subscription after Disney’s networks went dark.
Disney deeply values its relationship with its viewers and is hopeful Charter is ready to have more conversations that will restore access to its content to Spectrum customers as quickly as possible.
Consumers should also know that they have many options today and can choose from competing pay TV providers that offer Disney’s entire portfolio of networks and programming, as well as TV streaming services that can be accessed by downloading an app or over a broadband connection.”
What Charter Says
During an Investor Webcast on September 1, Charter Communications, Inc. provided its own update on its contract negotiation dispute with The Walt Disney Company.
“We respect the quality video products that The Walt Disney Company produces as well as the experience of its management team. But the current video ecosystem is broken, and we know there is a better path that will deliver video products with the choice consumers want.
The Walt Disney Company and Charter are uniquely capable to lead the way, which is why we are disappointed that thus far they have insisted on unsustainable price hikes and forcing customers to take their products, even when they don’t want or can’t afford them.
They also want to require customers to pay twice to get content apps with the linear video they have already paid for. This is not a typical carriage dispute. It is significant for Charter, and we think it is even more significant for programmers and the broader video ecosystem.
We have proposed a model to The Walt Disney Company that we believe creates better alignment for the industry and better products for customers. It is a model that could both stabilize linear video and create a clear growth path for direct-to-consumer (DTC) video, with a more customer-friendly and financially attractive end-state for programmers.”
In the meantime, until these two giants of the industry can meet somewhere in the middle, fans of Disney-owned stations won’t find them on their Spectrum cable subscription.
Options include finding different providers, getting ABC via TV antenna, or subscribing to streaming services like ESPN+ or Hulu, until a deal is reached.
Are you a Spectrum customer missing your Disney-owned channels? Let us know in the comments.