ESPN and other Disney-owned channels were blacked out by Charter Spectrum cable subscribers Thursday night in a carriage dispute. Here’s what you need to know:
Charter Spectrum is the nation’s second largest cable TV service with 14.7 million subscribers. ESPN, ESPN2, SEC Network, ACC Network and ESPNU are among the sports channels affected by the dispute. “We offered Dini a fair deal, but they want an exorbitant increase,” Charter said in a message to customers. “Programming price increases are the biggest factor in cable TV prices, and we’re fighting hard to maintain the amount of programming that companies like Disney throw at us.” “The prices and terms we seek in this renewal are driven by the marketplace,” Disney said in a statement Thursday.
A quick analysis of the athletics:
How is this affecting Spectrum subscribers?
As longtime cable subscribers know, carriage disputes are a frustrating annual fixture as media companies battle over who pays the rising costs of programming. Thursday night’s fracas saw Disney pull its popular channels (which include ESPN network channels, ABC and FX and National Geographic) on charter spectrum. This angered sports fans, as the college football opener for Utah and Florida (aired on ESPN) as well as the US Open of tennis (aired on ESPN2) were live.
Charter is a major carrier in New York and Los Angeles and serves more than 32 million customers in 41 states, so everything is bigger. (The LA Times said the service has more than 5 million customers in California alone.) – Deutsch
What happens next?
It’s clear that both sides have an incentive to end the pay-to-play dispute because of the challenge of customer churn caused by cable-cutters and cord-nevers who are hemorrhaging subscribers. But here’s the catch: What all of this hinges on is when, if not, ESPN will offer all of its sports properties direct-to-consumer (meaning customers will pay directly to ESPN for each one). month or year for an ESPN+ streaming product that includes everything ESPN has to offer).
Charter distributors and programmers need to work together because most programmers cannot survive on the a-la-carte streaming model alone. There’s always a blur but this appears to be the case at least for now, with Charter expecting a long chariot battle with Disney. Sports fans, as always, are the biggest losers in the fight. – Deutsch
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