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ESPN and Disney Dispute: Millions of NFL, College Football, Tennis Fans in Limbo


With their dispute now over a week old there are still millions of sports fans with Spectrum Cable/Video and their parent company Charter Communications that had been hoping to watch their college football, the conclusion of the United States Open tennis tournaments and the start to Monday Night Football’s schedule on ESPN.

Alas, Charter and ESPN’s parent company Disney have been involved in a private “negotiating war” at the end of their contract that has now become very public.

This, as Disney pulled the plug on all of their ESPN programming for Spectrum’s estimated 15 million subscribers on Thursday night August 31st. The belief last week was that something could be worked out during or by the conclusion of last Labor Day weekend. That’s so that those who have been seeing a blue screen with a disclaimer on it, where all of their ESPN channels used to be, would now be able to again see the popular and prominent sporting events that ESPN televises all over the landscape.

We delved into this subject/dispute on the latest “Last Word on Sports Media Podcast,” as media and entertainment writer Joe Flint of the Wall Street Journal provided insight to us on the story.

Joe has been covering the Charter vs. Disney fight, as well as, the growing problem and issue with cable and satellite providers battling with media companies over content. You can hear our conversation by pressing play below.


As the dispute gets ready to drag into a second weekend and if it is not suddenly resolved, this will result in one of the highest profile college football games of the early season, which is Texas traveling to Tuscaloosa to take on the Alabama Crimson Tide not being seen by millions of fans that previously were watching on Spectrum nationwide. Then, there’s the United States Open Women’s Championship match, also to be shown on ESPN2 on Saturday night, featuring American teenage star Coco Gauf. But, if you have Spectrum only, you will just see the “blue screen” as it stands, right now. The same with the men’s final Sunday night.

The biggest ‘showdown” in the dispute comes after the weekend.  That’s the debut of the 2023 Monday Night Football schedule, and the start of arguably Disney/ESPN’s most important live game broadcasts. It will commence with the Buffalo Bills playing in East Rutherford, New Jersey against the New York Jets.

And, this isn’t just any debut game in the NFL’s first weekend. No, it’s the 22nd anniversary of the horrific 9/11 tragedies that greatly impacted New York. It is to be a moving night for that reason, but ramped up even more by the addition of quarterback Aaron Rodgers joining the Jets from Green Bay Packers this off season and making his debut with his new team.

Yet, Spectrum subscribers will apparently be left in the dark, unless there is a deal reached within the next three days. Obviously there are alternatives to be able to see the programming and that includes what Disney wants- sign ups for new subscriptions to their own Hulu live TV which has all of the ESPN outlets and games. And, Disney/ESPN gets money from other providers like YouTube TV or DirecTV service, that have all the channels, as well.

However, as Flint told us on the podcast, there are many different battles and negotiations currently going on with all of the carriers and Disney over no longer wanting to pay what they have been, etc. That’s with the exception of Hulu that Disney owns.

Further, this Charter decision to “draw the line in the sand” on what they’re willing to spend and what they won’t agree to, maybe only a part of what’s about to happen for the next few months and years. This, as the tradition of watching games on a cable box or a Satellite Dish receiver or going to be replaced by watching them on a digital streaming outlet or paying Disney directly to see ESPN via streaming.

Most fans “eyes have glazed” out of boredom or frustration at this point with the multi-billion dollar companies fighting over subscriber money. And, the paying fans just want to be able to see the games.

Simple, right?

Unfortunately, if you’ve been hanging in with Spectrum / video Nationwide for the last eight days, it doesn’t look like it’s going to get any better in the short term

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