Disney and Charter resolve blackout, ESPN returns to 15 million customers

15:17 11.09.2023

Disney and Charter Communications have reached a resolution to their recent dispute, which resulted in nearly 15 million subscribers losing access to ESPN and ABC. The cable TV giant, Charter Communications, and Disney have finally come to terms after being locked in a standoff for nearly two weeks. The new agreement will allow Charter to offer Disney+ and ESPN+ streaming services to its pay-TV subscribers; however, in exchange, Charter will have to pay a higher carriage fee for Disney's channels.

The timing of the resolution was crucial, as it came just hours before the highly anticipated "Monday Night Football" opener on ESPN. The game featured the New York Jets, led by new quarterback Aaron Rodgers, against the Buffalo Bills. The dispute initially began on August 31 and caused Spectrum's subscribers in major markets such as New York and Los Angeles to miss out on the US Open tennis championships, including the impressive run of teenage sensation Coco Gauff.

As part of the newly established deal, Charter will provide the Disney+ Basic advertising-supported offering to customers who purchase the Spectrum TV Select package. Additionally, the streaming service ESPN+ will be provided to Spectrum TV Select Plus subscribers, and the ESPN flagship direct-to-consumer service will be made available to Spectrum TV Select subscribers upon its launch. However, it has been reported that several Disney-owned channels, including Freeform, Disney Junior, Disney XD, FXX, and Nat Geo Wild, will no longer be carried by Spectrum.

Both Disney CEO Bob Iger and Charter CEO Chris Winfrey issued a joint statement following the resolution, expressing their satisfaction with the outcome. They emphasized the importance of adapting to the changing needs of consumers and acknowledged the value of both linear television and streaming services. They also expressed gratitude to their customers for their patience throughout the dispute. The news of the agreement had a positive impact on the stock prices of both Charter and Disney, as well as other media rivals such as Warner Bros. Discovery and Paramount Global.

The dispute between Charter and Disney sheds light on the ongoing battle to retain cable customers in a time when many are cutting the cord and shifting to streaming services. Media companies like Disney are constantly looking to expand their streaming offerings to attract new subscribers. In response to the blackout, Disney encouraged customers to subscribe to Hulu + Live TV in order to access programming from ABC and ESPN.

Analysts have speculated that the disagreement between Charter and Disney was likely centered around streaming services and live sports. With only 1% of U.S. households watching more than 12 hours of ESPN in an average month, it is possible that Spectrum's dedicated ESPN viewers could have easily found alternative avenues to watch live sports. This could have influenced the negotiations and led to the eventual resolution of the dispute.

/ Monday, September 11, 2023, 3:17 PM /

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