Disney and Spectrum Clash Leaves Millions Without ESPN Access TipTechBlog


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Spectrum subscribers across the US have lost access to ESPN, FX, Freeform and all of Disney’s other programming. Disney-owned channels went dark last week over a carriage dispute with Charter Communications, the company behind the Spectrum brand. The blackout of ESPN, one of the largest sports broadcasting networks, caused viewers to miss out on parts of the US Open, the kickoff of college football and now the beginning of the NFL regular season. 

Typically, Disney and Charter have an agreement on how much Charter will pay Disney in exchange for the right to broadcast its many channels. But the two companies, which have been renegotiating the price, have failed to reach a new agreement. That led to Disney pulling its channels from the cable provider’s Spectrum service last week.

It’s safe to say that Charter subscribers are upset by this breakdown in negotiation. Deadline reported that Charter now faces a class action lawsuit from subscribers over the loss of these channels. Plaintiffs in the suit argue that Charter should provide the blacked-out channels or reimburse subscribers for the missing content. A Charter spokesperson declined to comment on the matter. 

Read on to find out what you can do if you’re a Spectrum subscriber affected by Disney’s channels going dark. 

What are my options? 

If you’re one of about 15 million Spectrum subscribers who’s missing some of your favorite content now that these channels have disappeared — and you just can’t wait for the dispute to be resolved — you’ve got some options. Almost all your favorite shows, news and sports are also available to stream.

The Disney Bundle — one version of which includes Disney Plus, Hulu and ESPN Plus — can provide viewers with all their beloved Disney programming and more. You’ll be able to catch children’s content ordinarily found on the Disney Channel or Disney Junior, and more adult-focused programs that are on Freeform and FX, along with sports. Some programming doesn’t air live, though, so you might miss out on real-time premieres of your favorite shows. A Disney Bundle subscription for the three services starts at $13 a month and its ad-free counterpart will run you $20 a month. 

If you’re missing news broadcasts, you could turn to over-the-air TV to get your fix of local news. You’ll need to purchase an antenna if you don’t have one and hook it up to your television, and then you’ll be able to access channels like ABC. You won’t have as many channels as you’d ordinarily get with cable TV, but if you’re just looking to watch your preferred local news broadcast, this could be a pretty solid fix. 

If you’re a sports fan feeling the loss of ESPN, you’re covered in other ways too. There are plenty of sports streaming platforms that’ll keep you caught up on all your favorite teams and players. If you’re specifically missing out on NFL coverage, there are multiple streaming options for games, as well as getting popular channels like NFL RedZone. 

The downside is that all these options cost money, on top of the cable service you’re already paying for. Companies generally are able to overcome these carriage disputes, though negotiation troubles in the past have led to weeks-long channel blackouts. 

You’ve also got a handful of live TV streaming services to consider if you’re ready to dump cable all together, though the debate between whether streaming services are any cheaper than cable rages on. There are options like Hulu plus Live TV, YouTube TV and Sling, each offering different channel lineups and other features to consider. Disney owns Hulu, which could play a part in the company’s dispute with the cable giant, though the companies haven’t detailed specific issues in their negotiations.

When will my channels come back?

Though it’s hard to say when exactly the two companies will reach an agreement, it’s safe to assume they’re actively working on coming to a solution. 

Charter has launched a website, called disneyespnfairdeal.com, about the carriage disagreement. On the site, Charter calls the pricing increase “excessive” and encourages subscribers to call on Disney to come to a deal. 

In response to CNET’s request for comment, Charter said the “current video ecosystem is broken. With The Walt Disney Co., we have proposed a model that creates better alignment for the industry and better choices for our customers.” Despite its disagreement with Disney, Charter noted that it remains “hopeful for a path forward.” 

Disney has also launched its own website in response to the disagreement, called keepmynetworks.com. Disney highlights “a highly successful track record of negotiating with providers of all types and sizes across the country” and says it’s “committed to reaching fair, market-based rates and terms.” 

In response to CNET’s request for comment, Disney said, “Contrary to claims, we have offered Charter most favorable terms on rate, distribution, packaging, advertising and more.” Disney also said, “We value our relationship with Charter and we are ready to get back to the bargaining table as soon as possible.” 

Unfortunately for fans, Disney and Charter weren’t able to reach a conclusion before the start of the NFL season. Here’s hoping things get sorted out soon, so fans can get back to enjoying ESPN’s coverage of the NFL this fall. 

For more on streaming services, here is CNET’s list of best free TV streaming services and how to choose between Netflix and Disney Plus.


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