Earlier today we shared the news of the ongoing ESPN carriage dispute with cable giant Charter (which operates the Spectrum-branded services). While sports fans are getting frustrated with the amount of money being shelled out for various streaming platforms and the complications in knowing which game is airing where, the cable bundle wasn’t quite a perfect solution either. Carriage disputes were one of the downsides of the bundle, where networks and distributors were seemingly always in constant games of chicken when it came to renegotiating carriage fees with viewers stuck in the middle.
These disputes have been commonplace over the years and a good percentage get solved before channels go dark after some public maneuvering and desperate cries by both sides.
Clearly that was not the case this time around.
ESPN and other Disney channels went dark on Spectrum at one of the peak viewing times – 8 PM E.T. on Thursday night. This timing just happened to coincide with ESPN’s first major college football broadcast of the season: Utah vs Florida. In spite of the warnings that the dispute could turn into a blackout, fans weren’t ready for the suddenness of the plug being pulled and the crappiness of the timing.
Of course, Charter’s message put the onus squarely on Disney for their channels, including ESPN, being no longer available on the cable platform, but fans were displeased with both companies.
— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) September 1, 2023
All ESPN networks just went black on Spectrum. Guess a bluff was called.
— Timothy Burke (@bubbaprog) September 1, 2023
Look at these awesome first quarter highlights
Thanks Spectrum & ESPN! pic.twitter.com/cWvYXNZ23J
— Tony Clements (@TonyCMKE) September 1, 2023
Holy shit. Spectrum stopped showing any ESPN channels, the second the Florida-Utah game went live.
Hey @GetSpectrum, none of your customers care about what happens behind the scenes.
None of us have any problem dropping you for another service.
FIGURE. IT. OUT. pic.twitter.com/3Pf5IItO2m
— Aaron Torres (@Aaron_Torres) September 1, 2023
Disney and Spectrum couldn’t agree to a deal, so all ESPN channels went dark at the start of the Florida vs. Utah game tonight. That’s brutallll pic.twitter.com/yQAGrenRQ5
— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) September 1, 2023
No shot @Ask_Spectrum and @espn just ended their deal at kickoff for the college football season. What an absolute middle finger to their customers. We are the losers in the battle between billionaires. They do not care about the consumer.
— Trey (@DVCTrey) September 1, 2023
— Section A12 (@A2theOh) September 1, 2023
— Devin Greenberg (@UncleGreenberg) September 1, 2023
Spectrum and ESPN being willing to do this in primetime is a very bold move and sure to inflame customers (as seen above). Fans despise nothing more than being caught in the middle of two feuding corporations fighting over money while they are the ones who are punished. Surely there will be plenty of folks around the country canceling their service as we write, which isn’t good for Spectrum or ESPN.
The pressure will only be increased on both sides to cut a deal as soon as possible with more college football games and the NFL season right around the corner. And in the meantime, the number of cord cutters will only continue to grow.
UPDATE: Here is the Disney statement about the impasse via Scott Carter…
A statement from Disney Entertainment for those viewers impacted … pic.twitter.com/z5RcuIACPm
— Scott Carter (@GatorsScott) September 1, 2023
And one from Charter/Spectrum via John Ourand:
“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. 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.”