Earlier this month, a carriage dispute between Disney and Charter Communications resulted in Spectrum cable customers across the US losing access to Disney’s linear channels, including ESPN, National Geographic, ABC, FX and the Disney Channel.     Charter Communications had said that the current cable system is broken, and they wanted their customers to have access to Disney+ and Hulu for free, since they viewed that Spectrum customers were paying for that content twice.  However, Disney didn’t want to provide access to their streaming service for free.

Earlier today, Disney and Charter Communications announced they’ve come to a new multiyear distribution agreement that provides Spectrum Cable customers with access to the majority of Disney’s networks and stations.  Also, as part of the new deal, in the coming months, the Disney+ Basic ad-supported offering will be provided to Spectrum customers who purchase the Spectrum TV Select package.

Since the announcement was made, many of Disney’s channels have returned to Spectrum’s cable platform. However, not every channel has returned, since in order to achieve the ad-supported version of Disney+ for free in the Spectrum TV Select package, some networks will no longer be included in Spectrum TV video packages, including:

  • Baby TV
  • Disney Junior
  • Disney XD
  • Freeform
  • FXM
  • FXX
  • Nat Geo Wild
  • Nat Geo Mundo

The new Disney cable bundle of channels is now much smaller, with just the core brand channels plus the ESPN channels, which might please some fans when they eventually get Disney+ included, but in the meantime, they will lose access to some content, including the popular Halloween countdown on Freeform.

With these channels no longer being available on Spectrum cable, other cable networks and providers will likely be looking at the Spectrum deal and wanting a similar deal.  This opens up the possibility of these channels eventually being removed from other providers and potentially closed down. It wouldn’t be a huge surprise if some or all of these linear channels eventually closed down to save money.

Only, earlier this year, Disney CEO Bob Iger spoke during an interview with CNBC and said that they were looking into selling their linear networks and that they are no longer part of Disney’s core business, unlike streaming, theatrical releases and theme parks.   With so many linear channels, many of which are duplicate networks built in an era before streaming, more channels offered more choices to viewers. Nowadays, with on-demand access, Disney looks to be potentially trimming down how many channels it runs.   I’d also say that DisneyNOW’s days are also numbered, since if Disney+ starts becoming bundled with more providers, there is little need to run an additional catch-up streaming service.

Internationally, Disney has already closed many of its linear channels, including the Disney Channel and National Geographic, focusing its attention on Disney+, while also licensing some shows and films non-exclusively to other linear channels and FAST channels.   During a THR interview with Dana Walden, co-chairman of Disney Entertainment,  she explained how Disney Channel, FX, and Nat Geo are seen as their primary channels, which are still available on Spectrum.  It would make sense to focus Disney’s attention on a few core linear channels, that can highlight the best content those brands have to offer.

While these channels might not close down, it’s clear Disney and Charter felt that Disney+ was worth swapping for these linear networks, since most of the content is going to be available on Disney+.   Later this year, Hulu content is going to be available within Disney+ in the United States, similar to how it operates internationally and once Comcast’s stake in Hulu is purchased, Disney can complete its plan to merge Hulu and Disney+.

The future of linear channels has been on the ropes for a while, but today’s announcement does send a clear message that Disney is willing to sacrifice linear for Disney+, as long as it still gets paid!

Do you think the removed channels will eventually close down?  Let us know on social media!


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Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Roger@WhatsOnDisneyPlus.com Twitter: Twitter.com/RogPalmerUK Facebook: Facebook.com/rogpalmeruk

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