ESPN, ABC, Disney Channel and other outlets owned by the Walt Disney Co. have gone dark on Charter Spectrum cable systems, which serve nearly 15 million subscribers in New York, Los Angeles and other major markets.
Disney channels were pulled off Charter systems on Thursday afternoon about 5 p.m. PT after the sides failed to reach an agreement on a new carriage pact.
More than 25 networks are affected, including ABC-owned television stations, Freeform, FX and National Geographic. The blackout began during a highly anticipated match-up between Carlos Alcaraz and Lloyd Harris at the U.S. Open, which ESPN had been broadcasting. The timing couldn’t be worse for college football fans, coming on the opening weekend of the season. ESPN has a broad slate of college games set for Thursday and Saturday.
Spectrum customers who were eager to watch Thursday night’s anticipated meeting of the University of Florida’s Florida Gators and University of Utah’s Utah Utes game on ESPN were sorely disappointed to find a slate card from Charter declaring that it is “fighting to keep costs down” and attempting to reach a “fair deal” with Disney, which is trying to “limit our ability to provide greater customer choice in programming,” as the company stated. But the ESPN blackout came without the usual build-up of warnings on-air and in media coverage about a possible contract blowup in the offing. That led to some irate reactions posted on social media.
“The Walt Disney Company has removed their programming from Spectrum which creates hardship for our customers. We offered Disney a fair deal, yet they are demanding an excessive increase,” Spectrum said in a statement, bolding the word “excessive.” “They also want to limit our ability to provide greater customer choice in programming packages forcing you to take and pay for channels you may not want. Spectrum is on your side and fighting to keep costs down while protecting and maximizing customer choice. The rising cost of programming is the single greatest factor in higher cable TV prices and we are fighting hard to hold the line on programming rates imposed on us by companies like Disney. We apologize for the inconvenience.”
Disney disputed Charter’s characterization, noting that it has numerous “successful deals in place with pay TV providers of all types and sizes across the country.”
“We’ve been in ongoing negotiations with Charter Communications for some time and have not yet agreed to a new market-based agreement,” Disney stated. “As a result, their Spectrum TV subscribers no longer have access to our unrivaled portfolio of live sporting events and news coverage plus kids, family and general entertainment programming. The rates and terms we are seeking in this renewal are driven by the marketplace. We’re committed to reaching a mutually agreed upon resolution with Charter and we urge them to work with us to minimize the disruption to their customers.”
Charter, in an additional statement Thursday, said, “We are disappointed with the Walt Disney Company’s decision to remove their networks from our lineup and deny our customers the opportunity to watch. We would agree to the Walt Disney Company’s significant rate increase despite their declining ratings. But they are trying to force our customers to pay for their very expensive programming, even those customers who don’t want it or worse, can’t afford it.”
The cable company’s statement continued, “The current video ecosystem is broken. With the Walt Disney Company, we have proposed a model that creates better alignment for the industry and better choices for our customers. We are hopeful we can find a path forward.”
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