ESPN is among a number of Disney Entertainment channels that have gone dark on Charter Spectrum cable systems.
The channels went off the air Thursday night at the start of the Missouri Tigers season opener against South Dakota on the SEC Network and ESPN+ due to a carriage dispute between the nation’s second-largest cable TV provider — which is the major carrier in the Kansas City metro, among numerous other markets — and Disney.
ESPN was carrying a college football game between Florida and No. 14 Utah while ESPN2 was showing the U.S. Open tennis tournament, including the second-round match between top-ranked Carlos Alcaraz and Lloyd Harris, when the channels went dark for Charter Spectrum’s 14.7 million subscribers.
There were also college football games on SEC Network, ACC Network and ESPNU.
The move angered sports fans, and the U.S. Tennis Association wasn’t pleased with the timing.
“We’re very disappointed for our fans and viewers around the country that Spectrum and Charter could not resolve their dispute with Disney, resulting in a loss of ESPN coverage of Thursday night’s matches. We’re very hopeful that this dispute can be resolved as quickly as possible,” USTA spokesman Chris Widmaier said in a statement.
Both Charter Spectrum and the Walt Disney Co. said in statements that negotiations have been going on for a while.
Besides all ESPN network channels, ABC-owned stations, Disney-branded channels, Freeform, FX and National Geographic channel have gone dark on Charter Spectrum.
“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,” Disney Entertainment said in a statement.
“We offered Disney a fair deal, yet they are demanding an excessive increase,” Charter Spectrum said in a note to customers. “They also want to limit our ability to provide greater customer choice in programming packages forcing you to take and pay for channels you may not want. The rising cost of programming is the single greatest factor in higher cable TV prices, and we are fighting hard to hold the line on programming rates imposed on us by companies like Disney.”
ESPN traditionally has had the highest carriage fees for cable companies. According to S&P Global, Disney gets an average of $2.20 billion per year from being carried on Charter Spectrum under its 2019 carriage deal.
Other cities where Charter Spectrum is the major cable carrier include Los Angeles; Dallas/Fort Worth; Orlando, Florida; Tampa, Florida; St. Louis; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Milwaukee; and Las Vegas.