What is the end of this fight?
Ostensibly, the dispute revolves around how much Disney can charge the charter for its content, and how much the charter’s customers will pay to access Disney’s streaming apps. But it could also have wider consequences. Charter and Disney are two of the biggest players in the cable and television industries, and they disagree about the best way to distribute movies and TV shows in an era when traditional viewership is eroding and streaming is on the rise.
How common are these disagreements?
Battles between cable companies and content providers happen all the time. Media companies like Disney are generally willing to charge more for their content, and cable providers like Charter’s are trying to reduce their costs at a time of low subscriber numbers. Until a deal is reached, cable and satellite TV providers are often blocked by TV channels for days or weeks at a time, frustrating viewers who think they are not getting their money.
How is it different this time?
Charter frames the blocking of Disney channels, including ESPN, as a fight over the future of television. The company took the unusual step of scheduling an early morning press conference on Friday to lay out its position, saying it had tried and failed to persuade Disney to agree to a “transformative deal” that would combine traditional TV packages with subscriptions to streaming apps. Disney said it has “suggested innovative ways to make Disney’s direct-to-consumer services available to Spectrum TV subscribers.”
How did Disney respond?
Disney hit back at Charter on Friday, blaming the cable company for refusing to enter into a new agreement that “reflects existing market terms.” Disney also said in a statement that it has spent billions of dollars on its streaming services, which include Disney+ and ESPN+, and that Charter wanted to give it away to its subscribers for free.
“The Charter’s actions represent a disadvantage to consumers ahead of the college football season on ABC and ESPN,” Disney said in a statement.
What does this mean for viewers?
Until Disney and Charter reach an agreement, the company’s TV channels, including ESPN, will be in the dark for the 15 million people who subscribe to Charter’s Spectrum service. For many, that means no access to the US Open, no college football on ESPN and no Saturday morning cartoons like “Bluey” on the Disney Channel.
However, viewers still have some alternatives. Much of Disney’s content library is available on Disney+, which means viewers willing to pay a monthly fee can circumvent parts of the cable outage. And streaming services like YouTube TV still carry the ABC broadcast network and its coverage of the US Open.
There is a possibility that with the closure of Disney Channels on Spectrum, Charter customers may cancel their subscriptions and opt for alternatives. But that’s a risk Charter has been willing to take, especially as its business shifts away from cable and toward subscription products such as broadband internet and wireless services.