Last week, Disney’s channels, including ESPN, ABC and FX, were blacked out for Spectrum cable customers across the US, including in New York and California, due to a carriage dispute between Disney and Charter Communications. The dispute is over how much Disney wants to charge for access to these channels, while Charter wants Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ included for free for its customers.
Since the channels became blacked out, following the Labor Day weekend, Disney has begun promoting its Hulu+Live TV bundle, which is priced from $69 a month and is an alternative to cable television, but it still offers Live and On-Demand TV from 90+ top channels including sports and news, plus Disney Channel, FX, ABC, National Geographic and ESPN channels, in addition to offering ESPN+, Hulu and Disney+ within the bundle.
In the last few days, according to Deadline, new Hulu+Live TV subscriptions are up 60% relative to internal expectations since the carriage dispute began.
Hulu+Live TV is one of the top internet-only TV bundles in the United States, with 4.3 million subscribers, but it is still behind YouTube TV. When the carriage dispute began, Spectrum has began promoting alternatives to Hulu+Live TV to their customers, since it is possible Charter Communications may even eventually exit the television business and just focus on its broadband and internet side, following many other providers, since cable television is now in decline as more people shift to streaming.
With the NFL season set to begin this coming weekend, along with other major sporting events like the US Open and the start of the college football season, many sports fans have signed up to other alternative platforms like YouTube TV and Hulu+Live TV to get access to the ESPN channels.
Whether Disney and Charter Communications will agree on its carriage fees is unknown. Disney is set to lose over a billion dollars in revenue if it doesn’t, but it also doesn’t want to give away access to millions of free Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+ subscriptions. Doing so, will result in other cable providers wanting the same thing, as they are looking to try to bundle their cable offerings with streaming services to keep existing customers. Charter Communications has previously considered exiting the television business since it doesn’t make as much money as it once did and is a declining business. This is a major test of the future of linear television, as even Disney’s CEO Bob Iger has spoken out about how linear is no longer core to their own business and is planning to launch a full ESPN streaming service at some point in the future.
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