Sports fans across the country were glued to their screens for the first weekend of NCAA college football, as well as the midpoint of the U.S. Open. But not all audiences were able to partake in the Labor Day weekend enjoyment, as 15 million+ customers of Charter and Spectrum TV were stuck without ESPN and more than a dozen Disney networks, with a variety of major markets also losing ABC due to carriage deal disputes between the communication giant and the House of Mouse. Rather than continue the generic messages that have appeared on subscribers’ televisions, Disney posted a relatively blistering response that essentially advised unhappy consumers to ditch Charter and find another service.
Most basically, the issue at hand here is money, naturally. Charter claims that Disney has refused to consider various carriage deals being proposed, and that the monolithic company is only interested in raising prices for its networks, which would need to be balanced by raising customer bills. Meanwhile, Disney says that Charter execs are the ones who aren’t being receptive to adjusted terms, and the company’s latest update on the matter is in the form of a “What To Know” primer that makes itself look like the good guy here.
Disney offered up a handful of talking points regarding the dispute, including the claim that Nielsen totals indicate 71% of Spectrum’s customers are watching those networks, while Charter previously claimed much lower numbers on a conference call, saying 50% of its base “actively” watches, and that 25% of its base “regularly” tunes in. And after a smattering of business-speak barbs, Disney basically gave customers the axe to cut the cord with, saying:
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.
"Customers should also know that sticking with just one pay-TV company for years on end is soooo the 1990s." Okay, so that part wasn't actually written by Disney, but a similar kind of DGAF attitude is present.
Because just before nudging customers into the general direction of Hulu subscriptions and the service's live TV subscription package, Disney more or less blamed Charter for ruining its customers' Labor Day weekend, saying:
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.
This obviously isn't the first dispute of its kind, but it could end up being a huge game-changer if no agreements are arrived at in the near future. In the aforementioned conference call, Charter execs brought up the notion that the company may fully remove itself from the pay-TV business, not only due to the ever-shrinking customer base, but also due to the unsatisfactory conversations with Disney. So even those Spectrum subscribers who fully blame Disney for the recent setbacks may still want to keep an eye open for other streaming deals out there.
I’d say that anyone who can’t watch college football could at least check out the Florida Gators-centered documentary Untold: Swamp Kings, but that would require a Netflix subscription, and I’m sure Disney execs would have some words of warning against going that route, too. Maybe just check out the Louisville Cardinals expertly recreating Top Gun: Maverick’s beach football scene.
For now, check out all the new and returning shows coming soon in our 2023 TV premiere schedule, all while hoping for cooler and less financially goaded heads to prevail by way of Charter and Disney’s dispute.