Charter/Disney Fallout: Bad Trouble For Freeform, Other Cable Nets

If I understand the Charter-Disney carriage deal the two companies struck last week, Spectrum cable subscribers going forward will no longer have access to at least eight Disney-owned channels they had before.

As a New York Spectrum customer, that has me thinking that the monthly cost of my subscription should be reduced (to a level I cannot compute) if what I am buying has now shrunk by eight cable networks.

Never mind that I never watched them (except one of them, and only very, very seldom). The issue is that I could have watched them, but now I will not have that option, even though I rarely, if ever, took up the option in the first place.

According to reports, the networks that Disney agreed to pull out of its carriage agreement with Charter Communications, owner of Spectrum, are Baby TV, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform (featuring original scripted series such as “Good Trouble,” pictured above), FXM, FXX, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo. 

The remaining Disney properties are ABC (WABC/Ch. 7 here in New York), FX, ESPN (multiple channels), Disney Channel and Nat Geo.

The standoff between the two companies started on Thursday, August 24, when all the Disney-owned channels on Spectrum -- including ABC and ESPN -- disappeared from Spectrum cable systems and left their positions vacant.

The agreement ending the standoff was reached last Monday (September 11). As of yesterday, the dropped channel spaces were still empty, except for an on-screen message informing subscribers that the channels were gone.

For the record, of the eight dropped channels listed above, the only one I used to check into every once in a while was Nat Geo Wild, an offshoot of Nat Geo where I hoped to find nice wildlife documentaries.

Maybe the network had them or maybe it didn’t. I just never found any, so this behavior ceased long ago.

As for the other dropped networks, news stories about the carriage settlement largely concurred that these are all under-performing channels for Disney.

The stories suggested that Disney is eyeing such under-performing networks for phasing out eventually as it evolves into a different kind of TV content company emphasizing streaming (both ad-supported and not) over legacy networks such as broadcast and basic cable.

Separately, recent stories have Disney discussing internally the possibility of selling some of these legacy assets including ABC and the TV stations the company owns.

One suitor, Byron Allen’s Entertainment Studios company, confirmed it made a $10 billion offer for those assets plus some of Disney’s cable networks last week.

Station owner Nexstar Media Group has also been rumored to be interested in some of the assets too, but there has been no such confirmation from Nexstar.

Whatever is really going on here, the TV business looks like it is on the cusp of a new era of massive change -- Disney allegedly talking about shedding legacy assets and now, the other majors thinking about their own future carriage agreements and the value going forward of their own broadcast and basic cable channels.

Some stories speculate on a whole slew of long-time basic cable brands such as NBCU’s Syfy and E!, for example, as possibly having outlived their usefulness.

As part of the Charter-Disney deal, Charter will now be offering Disney+ and ESPN+ to its subscribers, which to me, plays like a trade of the dropped, past-their-prime cable channels for new streaming ones. This exchange is a sign of the times.

As for Spectrum lowering my monthly subscription fee to reflect the lost channels I never watched anyway, I’m not holding my breath.

2 comments about "Charter/Disney Fallout: Bad Trouble For Freeform, Other Cable Nets".
Check to receive email when comments are posted.
  1. Douglas Ferguson from College of Charleston, September 19, 2023 at 2:54 p.m.

    At least I learned how tempting YouTubeTV and FuboTV free trials were compared to the cost of my Spectrum cable channels, many of which are useless. So I sincerely thank Charter for letting me know I could get along without them. And I'm looking forward to that $6 rebate on lost ESPN for a week or two.  #futurecordcutter

  2. Ed Papazian from Media Dynamics Inc, September 19, 2023 at 4:36 p.m.

    Yep, the great cable shakeout is beginning, Adam. Say goodby to lots of small audience, selectively programmed channels who are going to lose their carriage fees of have them greatly reduced. Without them they can't even dream of being profitable. With the average adult "watching"  only about five hours of "TV" daily---including times when the"viewer" is not even in the room or paying  attention to what's on the screen---there isn't enough time being spent to support all of the programmers---so the first victims will be the smaller cable folks---followed by many streaming services and, ultimately, by TV stations in smaller markets.

Next story loading loading..