A dispute between Charter Communications and Disney led to ESPN channels being blacked out Thursday night for Spectrum cable subscribers, which fans discovered en masse as they tuned in to watch the college football game between Florida and No. 14 Utah on ESPN.
Charter says it has approximately 14.7 million “video subscribers” via Spectrum. The blackout applies to 19 different Disney-owned cable channels, Spectrum says, but college football fans took note with the blackout going into effect right around the 8 p.m. ET kickoff of Thursday night’s biggest game.
Spectrum released the following statement, much of which they displayed on ESPN and other Disney channels in lieu of regular broadcasts, along with a message to “voice your concerns” at DisneyESPNFairDeal.com:
“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.
“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.
“Spectrum is on your side and fighting to keep costs down while protecting and maximizing customer choice.
“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.
“We apologize for the inconvenience.”
Disney also released a statement, via the Hollywood Reporter:
“We’ve been in ongoing negotiations with Charter Communications for some time and have not yet agreed to a new market-based agreement. As a result, their Spectrum TV subscribers no longer have access to our unrivaled portfolio of live sporting events and news coverage plus kids, family and general entertainment programming from the ABC Owned Television Stations, the ESPN networks, the Disney-branded channels, Freeform, the FX networks and the National Geographic channels.
“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.”
When will Spectrum have ESPN again?
Well … it’s hard to say. But Thursday’s moves seemingly bring added tension to the negotiations.
As George M. Thomas of the Akron Beacon Journal, part of the USA TODAY Network, notes, Disney and Google got into a similar standoff in 2021 that kept ESPN off YouTube TV for several days.