Just hours before the return of Monday Night Football, Disney announced it had made a brand-new transformative, multiyear distribution agreement with Charter Communications to bring many of Disney’s linear channels, including FX, National Geographic, Disney Channel, ABC and ESPN, to its Spectrum cable customers.  It was also announced that in the coming months, Disney+ Basic (ad-supported) will be provided to customers who purchase the Spectrum TV Select package, as part of a wholesale arrangement and that ESPN+ will also be provided to Spectrum TV Select Plus subscribers.

Disney’s linear channels were removed from Spectrum Cable earlier this month over a carriage dispute. Charter Communications had called the traditional cable system broken and wanted to change how things worked moving forward, or it could even look at leaving the television business.  Charter wanted access to Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+ included in their bundles, since they believed that cable customers were being charged twice for access to content and funding original programming.

The dispute has now been resolved, and many of the Disney core channels have been restored. However, not all of them have been.  With Baby TV, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FXM, FXX, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo, no longer being available on Spectrum.

This has instantly resulted in there being questions about the future of these channels, many of which have already been closed down internationally, as Disney shifted its priorities to Disney+.  Without the Spectrum cable customers, the overall reach of these channels has now been reduced by 20%, and it’s expected that other cable providers will be trying to make similar negotiations whenever their deals are up.

Shortly after the news of the deal was announced, Disney Entertainment Co-Chairmen Dana Walden and Alan Bergman and ESPN Chairman Jimmy Pitaro shared a memo to staff (via Deadline), ensuring they are committed to creating original content for these brands, in an effort to reduce fears of further layoffs, since only earlier this year, Disney laid off over 7000 cast members.

Here’s the full memo:


After a lengthy negotiation process, we have been able to create a transformative, multi-year distribution deal with Charter Communications that continues to support the existing linear ecosystem while also growing our direct-to-consumer business and positioning us well for our future. And, we are pleased that our viewers will once again have access to the majority of our networks and stations, just in time for the kickoff of Monday Night Football tonight on ABC and ESPN. As part of the agreement, Charter will distribute Disney+ Basic to millions of Spectrum Select subscribers, supercharging our ad tier and further expanding our reach and revenue. This is especially valuable as it reinforces our streaming strategy, one of the company’s key priorities.

In every negotiation, especially in times of transition, tradeoffs are necessary. On that front, while Spectrum will continue to carry ABC/ABC’s Owned Television Stations, Disney Channel, FX and the Nat Geo Channel, in addition to the full suite of ESPN networks, some of our networks will no longer be carried by Charter. Those include Baby TV, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FXM, FXX, Nat Geo Mundo and Nat Geo Wild. These channels will continue to be carried by our other distribution partners who represent over 80% of the reach for these networks. Our commitment to all our brands and the people who work for them is unchanged. We will continue to program these channels and deliver the same high-quality shows to our fans. And, of course, our viewers will also be able to enjoy specific titles and content from these networks on our streaming services.

Our customer-first strategy has served The Walt Disney Company well for a century, and as we look to our work ahead, we must be open to a blend of business models as our industry evolves. We encourage everyone to continue to embrace innovation and new ideas because it is precisely that creative thinking that opened an avenue to this agreement with Charter and will continue to fuel our future business.

To all our teams at Disney Entertainment and ESPN, thank you for your dedication.

Dana, Alan & Jimmy

While this memo might put some fears at rest that the channels aren’t going anywhere right now, but with Disney now focusing its linear attention on its core channels and after Bob Iger’s comments earlier this year about linear channels no longer being core to their business and looking to potentially sell some of them.   It’s likely we are going to see some changes to those dropped channels moving forward with some shows like “Archer” or “It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia” shifting over from FXX to FX, and similarly with new Nat Geo Wild and Disney Junior shows.

What do you think of Disney’s shift in linear channels?  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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