If you're a Spectrum cable customer, you might have noticed a series of missing channels. This is because a contract negotiation between Disney and Charter broke down at the last moment. This left Charter without the rights to these channels. Both companies have blamed the other for the issue, and customers are left without access to those networks. Customers have responded negatively in favor of Charter, calling for a boycott of Disney+ in response.
How contracts work in cable
Cable companies do not own or operate most of the channels that they offer on their services. Sometimes, the networks are owned by the same company, but that is not the same thing. For example, Comcast and NBC Universal are the same company, but Comcast Cable does not have automatic access to the content. On the other hand, Spectrum News is part of the cable company, and they own the rights to that content.
So, for a cable company to have content for viewers, they have to sign contracts with the content companies. These contracts include the amount paid per user, whether or not the channels will be required in packages, and a lot more. These contracts truly govern nearly everything viewers experience when watching their television.
Contracts last only for a set period of time. So, as the contracts come up for renewal, both companies will jockey for leverage in the negotiation. The cable company is going to want to pay as little per user as possible, while the content company will want to get the most per user. This tends to be where negotiations focus - the price of service. When negotiations don't work out by the time the contract ends, channels disappear.
Disney and Spectrum
These negotiations happen all the time, and most of them get resolved quickly and quietly. However, sometimes they go sideways. That's where we are with the negotiation between Charter, which owns Spectrum, and Disney. The negotiations did not end in a deal for a contract renewal, which means that Charter lost access to Disney-owned channels on Spectrum.
Because of the failure, all Disney-owned channels went dark on Spectrum. Well, sort of. Some subscribers have reported that ABC were dark, while others, including myself, still have access to ABC. All proper cable stations, however, are currently unavailable. This includes the ESPN collection, the FX collection, and the National Geographic collection.
Currently, all of these channels remain on the Spectrum lineup, but with five animated slides explaining, from the perspective of Charter, what is happening. These messages read, in part,
The Walt Disney Company, the owner of this channel, has removed their programming from Spectrum.
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.
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.
Customers call for boycott
Customers have responded to the shutdown in a surprising way. In the past, we have often seen consumers get mad at the cable company for "taking away their channels." However, in this case, customers seem to be blaming Disney for the conflict. This was made clear by "Cancel Disney Plus" trending on X (formerly Twitter) and other social media sites.
Customers believe that, if Disney is going to take cable channels away from them, then they should put pressure on Disney by unsubscribing from the company's streaming service. It's a solid theory - hurt them in the arena where they have full control, Disney+, while Disney hurts them in a place where they have no control.
There's no telling how long this will take to resolve. With pressure from customers on Disney, it might be resolved quickly. However, in the recent past, Disney has done this with YouTube TV and Dish, and the resolutions were not quick. If you want to voice your concern, you can go to Spectrum's website for information.