Just minutes into the 2023 college football season, all of the ESPN channels and other Disney-owned networks were pulled from Spectrum cable television systems around the country, including the Outer Banks, Elizabeth City and Ahoskie, as the two companies are embroiled in a dispute over how much the cable company pays to carry the channels.
Deadline reports Charter Communications, which runs Spectrum, and Disney had been locked in a distribution dispute since well before the U.S. Open tennis tournament began this week.
Along with the ESPN family of networks, the carriage fight also involves FX and a number of non-sports networks as well as ABC owned-and-operated stations.
Spectrum had been running spots warning its customers of the looming blackout, urging them to call a toll-free number to voice their concern about losing the Disney cable networks.
The move to pull the channels happened just as the Florida at Utah football game was kicking off on ESPN, and in the first half of Elon at Wake Forest on the ACC Network, with programming replaced by a static graphic.
If the dispute is not resolved, Spectrum customers across the state wanting to watch College Game Day live from Uptown Charlotte on Saturday morning, and the North Carolina vs. South Carolina game from Bank of America Stadium that evening will be out of luck, among other fans looking for games during week one.
“We’ve been in ongoing negotiations with Charter Communications for some time and have not yet agreed to a new market-based agreement,” Disney Entertainment said in a statement provided to Deadline.
“As a result, their Spectrum TV subscribers no longer have access to our unrivaled portfolio of live sporting events and news coverage plus kids, family and general entertainment programming from the ABC Owned Television Stations, the ESPN networks, the Disney-branded channels, Freeform, the FX networks and the National Geographic channels. 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.”
“We are disappointed with The Walt Disney Company’s decision to remove their networks from our lineup and deny our customers the opportunity to watch,” Charter said in its statement. “We would agree to The Walt Disney Company’s significant rate increase despite their declining ratings. But they are trying to force our customers to pay for their very expensive programming, even those customers who don’t want it or worse, can’t afford it.”
“The current video ecosystem is broken. With The Walt Disney Company, we have proposed a model that creates better alignment for the industry and better choices for our customers. We are hopeful we can find a path forward.”
The channels impacted by the blackout includes: 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.
This is the not the only carriage dispute between station owners and service provider that impacts northeastern North Carolina.
DirecTV and Nexstar, which owns the NBC and FOX affiliates in Norfolk, are in the middle of dispute that has kept WAVY-10 and WVBT-43 off the satellite service for several weeks.
The Outer Banks and the far northeastern counties of North Carolina are part of the Norfolk television market. Other than a few exceptions on cable systems that still have to blackout network programs, channels coming from the Greenville market are not available.