The almost 15 million customers of Charter’s Spectrum service, the second-largest cable TV provider in the US, are unable to view Disney’s channels. The blackout prevents viewers in big markets like New York and Los Angeles from accessing Disney-owned channels like ABC, ESPN, FX, Freeform, National Geographic, and a dozen others.
When network owners, like Disney, renegotiate contracts with service providers, like Charter, carriage disputes do occur occasionally. Disney has pulled its content as a negotiating ploy because it wants higher costs but Charter doesn’t want to pay them.
Charter says that Disney is “demanding an excessive increase” in fees and wants to force customers to “pay for channels you may not want.” Disney hasn’t entirely fought back against that assertion, telling multiple outlets it’s seeking “rates and terms … driven by the marketplace.”
Bundling channels is a popular strategy. While not everyone wants National Geographic, many people prefer ESPN, therefore requiring their sales together may help Disney fund its wider range of content.
The fact that Disney’s stock price is declining and its TV profits have been declining may be more significant in this case. It shouldn’t come as a major surprise that Disney is exerting considerable pressure to raise its tariffs because a carriage renegotiation with the second-largest cable TV provider represents a significant potential to boost income.
It shouldn’t have come to this point, really. Disney pulled off YouTube TV in 2021 after failing to strike an agreement in time, and for the same reason, Disney cut off Dish and Sling TV in 2022. The YouTube TV issue was resolved in just one day, while the Dish shutdown from last year lasted only two brief days.