How would you like it if you turned on your TV one day to discover that you are being blocked from watching “The View”?
OK, bad example. But what about “Good Morning America,” “World News Tonight,” or for those of us in New York, our beloved “Eyewitness News” on Channel 7?
Worse still, New York City subscribers to Spectrum Cable have had U.S. Open coverage, live from our own city, blacked out since last Thursday night (August 24) because of a dispute between the cable company and Disney.
As of yesterday afternoon (Tuesday, September 5), all our Disney channels on Spectrum were still missing.
In their place were five screens worth of verbiage posted by Spectrum (the first page pictured above), articulating its point of view about the situation -- which to hear them tell it, is all Disney’s fault (which it very well may be).
The blacked-out channels include WABC/Ch. 7 (owned by Disney and also considered to be the flagship affiliate of Disney’s own network, ABC), all of the ESPN channels, FX, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, National Geographic and NatGeo Wild.
Spectrum -- owned by Charter Communications -- is said to have 14.7 million subscribing households.
The company is especially strong in markets such as New York and Los Angeles, the nation’s largest, and also where Disney owns market-leading TV stations -- stations that are now blacked out (or at least they were yesterday).
The main issue is money. In negotiations that apparently broke down last week, Charter/Spectrum, which pays Disney to carry the Disney channels, says Disney is trying to force a fee hike that will force the cable company to jack up its customers’ subscription rates.
Moreover, Charter/Spectrum accuses Disney of forcing the fee increase in order to finance the production of content earmarked primarily for streaming, and not cable, according to various reports.
Spectrum’s blackout screens carry the following statements:
Screen 1 gets the ball rolling. “The Walt Disney Company, the owner of this channel, has removed their programming from Spectrum. We apologize for the inconvenience and are continuing to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a fair agreement on behalf of our customers.”
Screen 2 positions Disney as a bullying behemoth. “We offered Disney a fair deal, and yet they continue to demand an excessive [bold theirs] increase.
“In 2021, Disney pulled their programming from YouTube TV customers. Then Disney pulled from Dish and Sling customers in 2022. And now, right as football season kicks off, they’re pulling programming from you, Spectrum customers.”
Screen 3 says Disney doesn’t care about you, the cable subscriber. “This impact to customers is consistent with past practices from Disney, no matter who you get your service from.
“Disney also wants to limit our ability to provide greater customer choice in programming packages forcing you to take and pay for channels you may not want.”
In Screen 4, the cable company insists it does not want to increase subscription rates, although long-time cable subscribers might be skeptical of that kind of claim by a cable company.
“Spectrum is fighting to keep costs down while protecting and maximizing customer choice. The rising cost of programming is the single greatest factor in higher cable TV prices.
“We are fighting hard to hold the line against increased programming rates that Disney continues to demand.”
In Screen 5, the cable company positions itself as the “good guys” in this fight. “We understand this is an inconvenience and hope to return this programming soon while reaching an agreement that is fair to our customers [bold theirs]. We appreciate your loyalty and look forward to continuing to serve you.”
For its part, Disney put out a statement of its own on Labor Day. “This Labor Day weekend has been a frustrating one for millions of Spectrum cable subscribers,” the statement said.
“Disney deeply values its relationship with its viewers and is hopeful Charter is ready to have more conversations that will restore access to its content to Spectrum customers as quickly as possible. However, if you are one of these frustrated customers, it can be infuriating to not be able to access the content you want.
And here is the kicker as Disney reveals that what it really wants, going forward, is for consumers to seek out the company’s content on any number of its other platforms, instead of relying on cable.
“Luckily, consumers have more choices today than ever before to immediately access the programming they want without a cable subscription,” Disney said.
That may be true, Disney, but millions still have cable subscriptions. What about them?