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Cable T.V. Users in L.A. Caught In Dispute Over Disney-Owned Stations

The standoff between Charter Communications and the Walt Disney Co. that has left millions of Spectrum cable subscribers without access to ABC7, ESPN channels, FX, and National Geographic, along with other channels appears nowhere close to resolution.

2:40 PM PDT on September 7, 2023

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    We feel your pain, whether it's NFL football, championship tennis, or reruns of Bluey that today's T.V. crisis is causing your household.

    For the past seven days, millions of subscribers to Charter Spectrum's cable service have been unable to watch Disney-owned stations such as ABC, The Disney Channel, and ESPN due to a dispute between Charter Communications and the House of the Mouse, threatening sports and cartoon fans alike as the NFL season gets underway.

    The standoff between Charter Communications and the Walt Disney Co. that has left millions of Spectrum cable subscribers without access to these and other channels appeared nowhere close to resolution today, with both sides indicating there's been no movement toward a deal that would restore the programming.

    "As the U.S. Open reaches the men's and women's finals, and fans gear
    up for a weekend of college football and the opening of the NFL season,
    it's unfortunate that Charter decided to abandon their consumers by denying
    them access to our great programming," according to a Disney statement issued Thursday.

    "While they have stated their 'indifference' to the needs of millions of paying customers, we will not lose sight of what is most important--investing in the highest-quality stories, news and sports for our audience.

    "The question for Charter is clear: Do you care about your subscribers and what they're telling you they want -- or not? Disney stands ready to resolve this dispute and do what's in the best interest of Charter's customers."

    Speaking during an investor conference Thursday, Charter CEO Chris Winfrey insisted that the company has "a sense of urgency to resolve" the dispute since its customers are "stuck in the middle." But he said no progress toward a deal has been made.

    "If I had anything material to highlight, I would. So that should tell you something in terms of how we're doing," he said in remarks reported by The Wrap.

    All Disney-owned channels were pulled from Spectrum at 5 p.m. on Aug. 31 as the financial dispute over carriage fees reached the breaking point.

    Charter officials said at the time that Disney was ``demanding an excessive increase'' in the amount the company pays to carry the entertainment giant's channels on the cable system. Disney insisted its demands are "driven by the marketplace."

    In the days since, little movement has occurred, suggesting the stalemate could extend for weeks. Winfrey suggested in earlier remarks that the dispute could foretell an end of Charter's interest in video services altogether, noting the growing impact of streaming services.

     He reiterated that possibility during Thursday's investor call, noting that many customers looking to recover ESPN and other Disney programming have likely jumped to other services such as Hulu or YouTube TV, meaning the ones that remain with Spectrum would be the ones who wind up paying for the higher costs of the channels if an agreement is ultimately reached.

    But he said Charter could also just move on from Disney and repackage its existing channel lineup packages for customers.

    Winfrey questioned whether the traditional cable TV operating model is sustainable, and the company may need to shift its focus to adjust to a cord-cutting audience.

    In Los Angeles, the stalemate means ABC7 is no longer available on Spectrum, along with all ESPN channels, Freeform, FX, FXX, and National Geographic.

    Reporting by City News Service.

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