Carriage Dispute Sees Disney TV Channels, Including ABC and ESPN, Go Dark on Charter Spectrum Cable Systems

Do not adjust your set. If it has lost a few of your favourite viewing channels, there is a reason. A corporate dispute means a number of Disney Entertainment channels have gone dark on Charter Spectrum cable systems including ABC, ESPN, FX and Freeform, effectively isolating the country’s second-largest cable TV provider from its 14.7 million subscribers.

The channels disappeared off air Thursday night at about 5 p.m. Pacific due to a distribution fee dispute between the nation’s second-largest cable TV provider — which is the major carrier in New York and Los Angeles, among numerous other markets — and Disney, AP reports.

Spectrum subscribers immediately lost access to popular programming, including “Jeopardy!,” “Wheel of Fortune” and KABC-TV’s “Eyewitness News.”

ESPN was carrying a college football game between Florida and No. 14 Utah while ESPN2 was showing the U.S. Open tennis tournament when the channels went dark for Charter Spectrum’s subscribers across the country.

“We’ve been in ongoing negotiations with Charter Communications for some time and have not yet agreed to a new market-based agreement,” Disney said in a statement Thursday, acknowledging the loss of service to customers.

“Disney Entertainment has successful deals in place with pay TV providers of all types and sizes across the country, and the rates and terms we are seeking in this renewal are driven by the marketplace. We’re committed to reaching a mutually agreed upon resolution with Charter and we urge them to work with us to minimize the disruption to their customers.”

The Hollywood Reporter notes Spectrum, meanwhile, launched a website to give its customers its perspective on the dispute.

“The Walt Disney Company has removed their programming from Spectrum which creates hardship for our customers. We offered Disney a fair deal, yet they are demanding an excessive increase,” the company told customers. “They also want to limit our ability to provide greater customer choice in programming packages forcing you to take and pay for channels you may not want.”

“The rising cost of programming is the single greatest factor in higher cable TV prices, and we are fighting hard to hold the line on programming rates imposed on us by companies like Disney,” the note continued.

ESPN traditionally asked the highest carriage fees for cable companies. According to S&P Global, Disney gets an average of $2.20 billion per year from being carried on Charter Spectrum under its 2019 carriage deal.

Other cities where Charter Spectrum is the major cable carrier include Dallas/Fort Worth; Orlando, Florida; Tampa, Florida; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Milwaukee; and Las Vegas.

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