Fans of sports and other Disney offerings are going to have to do without on one of the nation’s largest cable providers.
Disney pulled its programming from Charter Spectrum on Thursday night, even as the Disney-owned ESPN networks were covering major live sporting events such as the US Open and college football.
Amid a broken “video ecosystem,” Charter Communications said, “Disney — so far — has insisted on a traditional long-term deal with higher rates and limited packaging flexibility,” in a presentation provided before an investor webcast. “Disney declined our proposal and pulled its video channels from Charter’s video customers on August 31,” it added.
Charter Spectrum is the largest pay-TV provider in the Los Angeles region. The service has more than 5 million customers in California — a third of its nationwide total.
It was unclear Friday how quickly the two sides might iron out the dispute over carriage fees and terms — if they find a resolution at all. Charter Chief Executive Christopher Winfrey told analysts during a morning conference call that a deal must be hammered out soon, and the Burbank entertainment giant must give Charter greater leeway in how it offers Disney’s channels on Spectrum.
Otherwise, Winfrey said, Charter is prepared to live without Disney’s channels — including ESPN — even if it means losing subscribers, and thus hastening the rapid cord-cutting that has already upended the television business model.
The dispute left hanging fans of sports like the football game between the University of Florida and the University of Utah, or the match between No. 1 men’s tennis player Carlos Alcaraz and Lloyd Harris in the second round of the US Open on ESPN.
“We’re very disappointed for our fans and viewers around the country that Spectrum and Charter could not resolve their dispute with Disney, resulting in a loss of ESPN coverage of Thursday night’s matches,” US Open Tennis posted to X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter. “We’re hopeful that this dispute can be resolved as quickly as possible.”
Disagreements over carriage fees are not new, especially as cord-cutting and streaming have eaten into the traditional cable business — sometimes even becoming ugly disputes, although Disney had to resolve a conflict with streaming service YouTube TV in 2021.
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