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Millions Boycott Disney Following Devastating Legal Dispute, Fans Suffer

The Walt Disney Company is a huge one, and one that many have a preconceived notion as to what it represents.

Of course, it is easy to think of theme parks when it comes to Disney, with Disney World and Disneyland making headlines every day. The Disney parks around the globe provide ultimate vacation destinations that many aspire to visit, and save up to experience. Here, guests are able to see their favorite characters come to life, like Mickey Mouse, ride in their favorite Disney movie as they enter the cinematic universe that the attraction entails, like Pirates of the Caribbean, and enter a themed universe that is entirely transformative.

Credit: Disney Parks

All of this stems from Disney’s start in the entertainment business. When Walt made Mickey Mouse, he was creating films that people could watch. Steamboat Willie was his first creation bringing Mickey to life, but that quickly expanded into full-length feature films like Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. 

All of our love for the magic of Disney, however, began on a TV screen. By watching movies on the Disney channel, and getting to know the stories being told while sitting on our couches at home, many of us developed an affinity for the company. Without all of the Disney-owned channels being available, many would probably have a delayed start to learning more about the company.

Logo, company name
Credit: Disney Junior

Disney has since expanded to owning many cable TV networks from the classic Disney Channel, to ESPN, ABC, and more. By owning such a large monopoly in the cable industry, it is easy to see how Disney does dominate cable network content, as much as they dominate the theme park space as well.

Recently, we announced that that monopoly had been decimated after millions were left without Disney in their lives, as if Thanos snapped his fingers and made it disappear. 

Disney Entertainment-owned channels, including ABC and ESPN went dark Thursday night for Charter Spectrum subscribers after the companies failed to agree on terms for Charter to carry Disney programming.

WLWT reported, “A company representing nearly 15 million cable subscribers and The Walt Disney Co. blamed each other Friday for a dispute that has cut off Disney-owned stations to viewers on the eve of a big sports weekend for U.S. Open tennis and college football fans. The dispute between Disney and Charter Communications Inc. resulted in ESPN, ABC, FX, National Geographic and Disney-branded stations going abruptly dark on Thursday night for Charter’s Spectrum TV subscribers. ABC-TV was also cut in seven markets, including New York, Chicago and Los Angeles.”

Both the cable company and Disney said the other side rejected short-term extensions that would have kept Spectrum subscribers’ access to the networks.

Disputes that result in such service disruptions are not uncommon. This one feels bigger, both because of the number of networks and customers involved and how the companies are grappling with a rapidly changing business environment.

Chris Winfrey, CEO of Charter Communications, said he recognized the timing was not ideal for customers.

“We’ve almost always avoided these kinds of disputes and disruption to your service,” Winfrey said, addressing customers in a conference call Friday. “But we had to draw a line in the sand on your behalf.”

These disputes typically involve how much money a cable system is required to pay a company like Disney for carrying its stations. ESPN traditionally has had the highest carriage fees for cable companies. According to S&P Global, Disney gets an average of $2.2 billion per year from being carried on Spectrum under its 2019 carriage deal.

Between cord-cutting and the increased popularity of streaming, Charter says it has lost 25% of its cable customers over the past five years. So it is seeking a deal with more flexibility: allowing customers to order some Disney-owned stations without being forced to take all of them, and it wants ad-supported streaming services included so customers don’t have to essentially pay for them twice.

But Disney said Friday that its streaming and television products are not the same. Which, is true. There are many television options that do not go to Disney+ or Hulu, and many things that viewers enjoy watching live.

“Although Charter claims to value our direct-to-consumer services, they are demanding these services for free,” Disney said in a statement. The company said it makes multibillion-dollar investments in exclusive content for those streaming apps.

Other cities where Charter is the major cable carrier include Dallas/Fort Worth; Orlando, Florida; Tampa, Florida; Kansas City, Missouri; St. Louis; Cleveland; Cincinnati; Milwaukee; and Las Vegas.

Disney Channel Logo
Credit: Disney

Disney said it was ready to resume negotiations as quickly as possible.

Below is a list of the Disney-owned channels and stations impacted:

ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN News, SEC Network, ACC Network, Longhorn Network, FX, FX Movie Channel, FXX, Freeform, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, BabyTV.

ABC On Demand programming and the following local ABC stations: ABC7 Chicago, ABC7 Los Angeles, ABC7 New York, ABC7 San Francisco, ABC11 Raleigh-Durham, ABC13 Houston, ABC30 Fresno.

For now, the 15 million affected will see a blue screen that announces that the channel is not currently available to the viewer. With NFL football returning, the removal of these Disney-owned networks does have horrid timing and will likely affect the success and ratings of not only football games but television shows as well.

the abc logo superimposed over images of wga writers strike on hollywood blvd
Credit: ITM/People

Wave has reported that the overall reaction of this cable channel removal is leaving Disney fans upset. “Sports fans have been boiling since Thursday night when Disney pulled the plug on ESPN on Spectrum because contract negotiations are going badly”, the publication noted.

Stephen Brian is a longtime UofL football fan, and he said he couldn’t wait to watch the Jeff Brohm era kickoff Friday night on ESPN.

“I was definitely upset,” Brian said. “I had gotten up a little early to watch some sports programming but it wasn’t on there so I kind of got up for no reason. It’s definitely disappointing concerning the amount the cable system costs now.”

Costs that Brian said he’s seen increase twice in the last year.

So Friday morning, he said he called Spectrum immediately and waited almost 45 minutes until they offered him $15 off per month until the problem is resolved.

jimmy kimmel late-night
Credit: ABC

“Well, it looks like I’m going to have to find a different place to watch it or just not watch it at all,” Brian said. “And I may even check out the radio because, from time to time, I do listen to UofL ball on the radio, so I may have to tune into the radio if I decide to stay home.”

“Definitely leaning towards looking at other options now, especially since the bill keeps going up,” Brian said. “And it makes me wonder that when they do come to an agreement with Disney, are they going to raise my rates again because Disney has acted out and wants more money from Spectrum? So are they going to pass that down to the customer also?”

ESPN at Disney World
Credit: Walt Disney World

On X, formally Twitter, many have been expressing their grievances for days.

Mazzi Rigoro Osisi said, “@GetSpectrum #Spectrum@NY1y’all better figure out this dumb ass fight you have with@Disneybefore you end up getting dropped by the masses.

#Disney don’t play!”

Marie Robinson said, “If I don’t get my local NYC ABC programs back soon I will consider switching provider!!! I don’t pay for or receive ANY DISNEY PREMIUM PROGRAMMING! WHY HAVE I LOST FREE LOCAL ABC PROGRAMS??? FIX THIS OR DISCOUNT MY M9NTHLY BILL!”

Paul Reickhoff shared, “Add me to the list! @GetSpectrum #Spectrum, this is ridiculous. We pay you for a service. We don’t pay Disney. Deliver, or I’m gone as a customer. #Grrrr #F1 😡” While also showing the TV screen display that consumers will see when turning on a Disney channel.

The amount of comments that share anger about the ongoing situation on Twitter is staggering and continues to grow. This dispute is also hurting businesses, especially bars and restaurants who use Spectrum to show the latest sports game, which is a major draw for guests. Now, they are held back from doing that and losing customers.

At the moment, Disney and Spectrum have still not come to an agreement.

What do you think about this Disney / Spectrum debacle? Are you affected?




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