It’s the eve before the start of the 2023 NFL regular season, and an off-the-field battle continues to fester between two giant corporate entities that could impact football fans around the country. For those who circle the wagons with the Buffalo Bills and find solace in Gang Green with the New York Jets, the timing couldn’t be worse.
Disney vs. Charter Spectrum and the battle over ESPN ahead of 2023 NFL season
As of this writing, ESPN and all related ESPN channels are currently unavailable to those who choose Charter Spectrum cable as their primary entertainment provider. The reason? Disney, the mega parent corporation to ESPN, is locked in a white-collar fight with Charter Spectrum over the worldwide leader in sports’ future with the cable company. The ordeal also impacts Charter Spectrum’s Business and Enterprise service customers, in addition to those with Residential subscriptions.
If you’re looking for a succinct explanation, scroll down to the “too long, didn’t read (TLDR)” section at the bottom of this article.
ESPN has shown solidarity with Disney, which you can read more of via the embedded social media post by ProFootballTalk:
Eight days before Bills-Jets, ESPN issues a statement predictably supporting its corporate overlord's position in the Charter/Spectrum carriage dispute. https://t.co/Tj6h6Z6U0c— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) September 3, 2023
The current situation has much of Bills Mafia agitated, confused, and left searching for alternatives ahead of the Buffalo Bills’ Week 1 matchup against the New York Jets for Monday Night Football (MNF), which airs on ESPN. Also directly impacted is ESPN2’s ManningCast schedule, which features quarterback brothers Peyton and Eli Manning in a live alternate broadcast during MNF. The Mannings begin their third year on the platform with the Week 1 Bills-Jets matchup. Fans who choose Manningcast on ESPN2 will not receive that broadcast over the air.
The good news for now is that the regular broadcast this week is also on ABC, as long as your local affiliate isn’t blacked out. If you're in New York City, ABC7 is not going to be available as of this writing. If you are impacted, you’ll want to consider other streaming options, such as FuboTV (who partners with Charter Spectrum), YouTube TV, Hulu (which partners with Disney), and Sling.
The bad news for fans who have Charter Spectrum? If this drags on beyond Week 3, Bills Mafia and NFL fans won’t be able to turn to their locale affiliates to watch their teams play. That’s because the tandem airings won't continue.
But this doesn’t just impact football lovers. Sports fans who rely on ESPN through Charter Spectrum to tune in to their favorite teams and pastimes are suddenly in the dark, left with a “blue screen of death” notice that informs them about the ongoing dispute, and provides viewers with a QR code that directs to a Charter Spectrum-created webpage, disneyespnfairdeal.com.
In an effort to refrain from sending you elsewhere to gain a more complete picture of this fiasco, the notice delivered by Charter Spectrum follows below (with certain line breaks removed to provide a cleaner read):
The Walt Disney Company has removed their programming from Spectrum.
We offered Disney a fair deal, and yet they continue to demand an excessive 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.
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.
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.
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.
We understand how important it is to be able to access your programming content and have solutions for you.
Additionally, several non-sports channels, on-demand Disney-property programming, and apps that utilize Disney properties have been affected as this relates to the Disney-Charter Spectrum situation. Per the linked site, the following Disney-owned channels and more have been impacted by the feud:
“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.
Please note: programming within apps, such as the ESPN app, will also be impacted.”
Charter Spectrum has called attention to its inability to reach a “fair resolution” with Disney. While two entertainment and technology giants argue over what’s fair for each company, neither side seems truly interested in considering what’s fair to their audience.
While one fully expects Spectrum to position themselves as a knight on a white horse, here to save its customers from the burden of added fees, there’s more to it than the the surface will show. There are often at least two sides to every story. To that end, and as of Wednesday, September 6, Charter Spectrum has been delivered a class-action lawsuit in Florida federal court from one Residential services customer “alleging that the company has continued to bill for services not delivered.”
In recent years, many have chosen a mass exodus from cable, “cutting the cord” for other streaming options that better fit their budgets and viewing habits. There are plenty who continue using Charter Spectrum, due largely to the consistency in service, quality of feed (programming that doesn’t buffer), and almost no lag time in live-game settings.
At this stage in the game, streaming providers have gained a lot of ground with cable TV in terms of cost. Once you cut the cord and choose several streaming platforms — depending on your programming needs — you might meet or exceed the cost to continue with traditional cable TV. But that’s not the case for all.
There’s no telling for how long things between Disney and Charter Spectrum could drag out. In the past, Charter Spectrum has been able to secure deals ahead of any lapse in programming with other properties. That obviously didn’t happen this time, and it makes sense for customers to be proactive at this time.
TLDR: Bills vs. Jets MNF / Disney vs. Charter Spectrum
It appears that Disney wants more of Charter Spectrum’s cable pie, while Spectrum wants more freedom to offer a greater diversity of channel/programming options with Disney and its related properties. The argument between the two companies has left those subscribers with Charter Spectrum Residential, Business, and Enterprise unable to tune in to ESPN, and all additional Disney-owned channels/properties/apps.
While most fans will be able to watch the Week 1 MNF game on ABC, some will have to choose other options. Those who tune in to watch ManningCast on ESPN2 will not receive that alternate broadcast over the air, and must choose another provider at this time.