Disney and Charter Communications on Monday ended their epic squabble that blacked out ESPN and ABC to nearly 15 million subscribers — but a slew of channels, including kids’ favorite Disney Junior — were sacrificed in the process.
The deal over carriage fees, which restored ESPN hours before the much-anticipated “Monday Night Football” opener featuring Aaron Rodgers and the Jets, will give Charter customers access to the Mouse House’s popular streaming services — while slimming down Disney’s bundle of 19 channels.
Charter agreed to pay Disney’s higher price to carry ESPN, but the cable company will also be allowed to include Disney+ in its $60-a-month Spectrum TV Select offering, the companies said.
Charter will pay Disney a wholesale price for the service, according to people with knowledge of the matter, cited by Bloomberg.
“This deal sets the framework for what should be developed throughout the entire industry,” said Charter Chief Executive Chris Winfrey in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
Winfrey added that Disney’s willingness to meet Charter halfway gives the entertainment giant an opportunity to “transform the video business model,” the Journal reported.
However, part of the transformation will entail the elimination of popular channels like Disney Junior, Freeform, Disney XD and Nat Geo Wild from Spectrum, whose 14.7 million subscribers include those in New York and Los Angeles.
Parents — who depend on Disney Junior favorites like “Bluey” and “Mickey Mouse Clubhouse” to entertain their kids — were left fuming.
“My toddler watches Disney Junior non-stop! This is not a helpful resolution for us!! Bring back Disney Junior!!” tweeted one angry parent on the rebranded Twitter site X.
“I am so mad right now spectrum removed Disney Junior and Disney XD permanently I loved those channels,” wrote another.
“Disney Junior was such a huge part of my daughter’s life. We spent so many happy hours together watching shows there. Sad other kiddos won’t get the chance,” a customer added.
Charter and Disney noted that much of the content from the eliminated channels — including Disney Junior — will migrate to streaming platforms such as Disney+ or Hulu, or to Charter’s other cable properties.
“Our collective goal has always been to build an innovative model for the future. This deal recognizes both the continued value of linear television and the growing popularity of streaming services, while addressing the evolving needs of our consumers,” Disney CEO Bob Iger and Charter CEO Chris Winfrey said in a joint statement Monday.
In recent years, the future of channels like Disney Junior have been called into question as Disney+ has grown and expanded its offering of TV shows and movies.
In 2020, the Mouse House killed the Disney Channel, Disney XD, and Disney Junior in the United Kingdom, as it moved those channels to Disney+. Other markets like Australia, New Zealand and Malaysia followed suit.
Charter’s deal with Disney followed a nasty dispute, which began Aug. 31, and had caused Spectrum subscribers to miss major sporting events, including teenager Coco Gauff’s dramatic run to win the US Open tennis title.
Amid the public tussle, the Mouse House urged customers to subscribe to Hulu + Live TV, in order to gain access to programming from ABC and ESPN.
The Charter/Disney battle comes as cable providers scramble to keep customers from cutting the cord, and media companies push to expand their streaming offerings to capture new subscribers.
Charter said it will maintain “flexibility” to offer “a range of video packages at varying price points based upon different customer viewing preferences.”