Disney has cut off access to its channels to the nearly 15 million subscribers of the Charter Spectrum service, the second-largest cable television provider in the United States. The blackout means viewers in key markets like New York and Los Angeles won’t have access to ABC, ESPN, FX, Freeform, National Geographic and a dozen other Disney-owned channels.
Carriage disputes occur with some frequency when network owners like Disney renegotiate contracts with service providers like Charter. Disney is demanding higher fees, Charter won’t pay them, so Disney canceled its program as a negotiating tactic.
Charter says Disney is “charging an excessive increase” in fees and wants to force customers “to pay for channels they may not want.” Disney hasn’t fully denied this claim, telling multiple outlets that it seeks “prices and terms…market-driven.”
Channel bundling is a common tactic. Lots of people want ESPN, not everyone wants National Geographic, and requiring them to be sold together can help Disney support its broader programming offerings.
But perhaps more importantly, Disney’s stock price has fallen and TV earnings have fallen. Renegotiating transmission rates with the second largest cable TV operator is a valid opportunity to increase sales. So it’s no big surprise that Disney is working hard to increase its rates.
That it would get to that point isn’t too surprising. In 2021, Disney discontinued YouTube TV after failing to reach an agreement in a timely manner, and in 2022, Disney discontinued Dish and Sling TV for the same reason. Last year’s Dish outage lasted just two days, and the YouTube TV dispute was settled after just one day.