Earlier this week, Disney’s television channels, including ESPN, FX, ABC and National Geographic, were removed from the Spectrum Cable networks, impacting over 15 million people across multiple markets, including Los Angeles and New York, due to a carriage dispute between Disney and Charter Communications.
Charter Communications released some details from their point of view earlier today, stating that the current video ecosystem is broken, and they offered Disney a new model that they believe creates better alignment for the industry and better products for customers. In their view, this new model could 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.
They have claimed that Disney wanted to charge higher license fees and demand that offering less packaging flexibility, which would cost the consumer more. Charter wants to offer ad-supported tiers of Disney+ and Hulu within the cable bundle, since they view that customers have to pay twice for content on both linear and streaming.
Over the Labor Day weekend, Disney has released a new statement on the ongoing dispute to :
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.
While Disney doesn’t specifically mention it, they do offer their own alternative to cable, Hulu+Live TV, which also includes Hulu, Disney+ and ESPN+.
As you might expect, Disney isn’t willing to bundle its streaming services such as ESPN+, Hulu and Disney+ with its linear networks bundle, since, generally, the growth of streaming services is what’s causing the decline in cable television. Also, should Disney give in to this demand, they would likely have similar issues with other cable providers, and other studios, such as Paramount, Comcast and Warner Brothers Discovery, would also run into similar issues with their streaming services when they go to negotiate. This could result in large bundles of streaming services being put together for cable subscribers, marking a huge shift in the cable bundle business, which is, again, why Disney is pushing back against Charter, who are trying to adapt their business since so many people have left cable TV and there are more and more people cutting the cord every day.
Hopefully, Spectrum and Disney can agree to restore the Disney television networks soon, especially before the NFL season begins next weekend.
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