The ongoing strikes in Hollywood by the Writers Guild and Actors Guild is having a huge impact on the entertainment industry as the prolonged disputes are reshaping fall television plans for the major networks. With no end in sight for the strikes, networks are turning to reality shows, reruns, and live sports.

Last night ESPN and ABC aired a planned doubleheader for Monday Night Football with staggered starts. Saints-Panthers began on ESPN at 7:15 PM ET while Browns-Steelers aired on ABC an hour later at 8:15 PM ET. Yesterday it was announced that ABC would also simulcast single Monday Night Football games in ten extra weeks this season to fill programming due to the strikes in Hollywood. Given the value of live sports programming, ABC even switched around their endless lineup of Bachelor(ette) shows to make room for the NFL on Monday nights.

While ESPN and ABC feel as though they’re doing what they have to do to keep some eyeballs on the broadcast network, distributors that carry those networks are furious with the plan. According to Sports Business Journal, cable companies are upset that Disney is “double-dipping” by making companies pay for ESPN and ABC when they are airing the same premier programming. Distributors are paying a huge price for ESPN because of their exclusive live sports programming. Not so that it can also be shown free-to-air on ABC.

Distributors are upset by Disney’s move because ESPN costs more to carry than any other pay-TV channel. Plus, the retransmission consent fee that distributors pay to carry ABC also is high.

“This whole double-dipping on the backs of distributors is just ridiculous,” one distribution executive said. “This is not going to endear the Walt Disney Co. to its distribution partners. Its flagship content was supposed to sit within ESPN. The fact that it has now sprung free to ABC to cover the fact that they aren’t willing to pay actors and screenwriters is BS.”

On the bright side, one distribution executive said Disney’s simulcast with ESPN and ABC would have less of an impact because it’s keeping viewers in the bundle. This executive gets more agitated when programming is shared with a direct-to-consumer streaming service that acts as an incentive to get customers to cut the cord.

Of course, ESPN is just coming off a high-profile carriage dispute with Charter that just ended before Week 1’s Monday Night Football game and many customers around the country were going to miss Aaron Rodgers’ debut with the Jets that just so happened to be the most watched MNF game ever. How much of this is real anger from distributors and how much of it is posturing to exact even more leverage over Disney and ESPN given how fraught with turmoil the entire industry is at the moment?

It’s ironic given Monday Night Football aired exclusively on ABC for decades before shifting to cable. But everywhere you look, what’s old is new again.

[Sports Business Journal]