Every single Disney-owned channel has been deleted from a massive cable line-up, leaving millions of subscribers furious. The Walt Disney Company made a powerhouse move on Thursday evening, leaving millions of cable subscribers furious.
The world is fuming this morning over a sudden darkness that seemingly overtook the planet on Thursday evening–at least for Spectrum Cable subscribers. Droves of college football fans gathered around their televisions at home and around the table at their favorite restaurant on Thursday night to watch the University of Utah Utes take on the University of Florida Gators at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City.
But at exactly 8:00 p.m., as the anticipation for the start of the big game was at its peak, every screen unexpectedly went black. At-home viewers scrambled for their remotes and quickly clicked on other channels. College football fans at local bars and restaurants impatiently asked their servers why the televisions had gone dark. This was no power failure. This was no accident.
It was as if someone had pulled the plug on the game–because someone had.
Disney Makes a Strategic, Powerhouse Move
Thursday evening’s black-screen debacle was experienced by fans across the country, but some viewers were still able to watch the Florida-Utah game, which was broadcast live on the Disney-owned ESPN network, with no interruption.
Fans watching the game on a television associated with a Spectrum Cable subscription missed the entire match-up. Where they had hoped to watch Utah pull off its highly projected victory over Florida with Utes’ starting quarterback, Cam Rising, on the bench, there was only darkness. And fans who would later learn of the brilliant call by Utah’s offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig to give Florida a one-two punch with the dynamic quarterback duo of Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson found themselves sitting in front of television screens that were silent as the 8:00 p.m. kickoff set the game into motion.
Moments after ESPN suddenly went dark, Spectrum, owned by Charter Communications, revealed the responsible party. In an on-screen message on the ESPN Channel–and every other Disney-owned channel in the line-up–Spectrum laid the blame for the absentee content at Disney’s feet, saying:
“The Walt Disney Company, the owner of this channel, has removed their programming from Spectrum, which creates hardship for our customers. We apologize for the inconvenience and are continuing to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a fair agreement.”
The on-screen message continued with, “To share your concerns, go to www.DisneyESPNFairDeal.com or scan the code,” followed by a QR code that takes subscribers to the site, which is operated by Spectrum and seems to attempt to vilify Disney in the dispute and wash Spectrum’s hands of any wrongdoing. Disney had pulled the plug on all of its channels across the Spectrum Cable channel line-up. And the timing of the plug-pulling was no accident. It was strategic.
Thursday evening’s game on ESPN was the first in Week One of the 2023 NCAA College Football Season, which lasts 13 weeks and ends on December 9, 2023. Disney knew that millions of college football fans would be watching ESPN–and that they’d be livid if they suddenly had no access to the game.
But ESPN was just one of several channels blocked by Disney on Thursday night. In fact, 100% of Disney’s channels went black, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN News, SEC Network, ACC Network, Longhorn Network, FX, FX Movie Channel, FXX, Freeform, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, BabyTV, ABC On Demand programming and the following local ABC stations: ABC7 Chicago, ABC7 Los Angeles, ABC7 New York, ABC7 San Francisco, ABC11 Raleigh-Durham, ABC13 Houston, and ABC30 Fresno.
Why So Angry, Disney?
Before the abduction of Disney content from the Spectrum line-up on Thursday evening, the majority of the cable company’s subscribers had no knowledge of the growing tension between Charter and Disney–tension that finally erupted and gave way to Disney’s removal of its channels from Spectrum.
The dispute is based on opposing viewpoints from both parties. Disney wants a more conventional, long-term agreement that includes higher fees. However, Charter Communications says that Disney’s multi-channel offerings are too expensive and that Disney offers little in the way of customer choice when it comes to programming packages, insisting customers pay for channels they don’t watch. Charter also says that Disney’s agreement would ultimately lead to the loss of subscribers and set the cable provider back financially.
As of the time of this publication, there’s still been no agreement made between Disney and Spectrum, and time is not on Spectrum’s side. Nearly 15 million Spectrum subscribers are currently being affected by the absence of Disney’s content, and it’s no secret that those subscribers have other options when it comes to cable providers. Some have already begun using YouTube TV.
Charter could begin to lose customers immediately, especially if Disney and Spectrum continue to disagree on a new carriage agreement. The longer it takes for an agreement to be reached, the more subscribers can be lost to competitors. And in the often dog-eat-dog cable provider market, it won’t be long before other providers like AT&T, Verizon, Dish, DirecTV, Cox Communications, U-Verse, and others begin taking steps to monetize the Disney-Spectrum debacle.