Disney and Charter Communications have a corporate dispute that has caused millions of Spectrum customers to lose access to all Disney-owned networks, including ESPN. On Sunday, ESPN issued a statement regarding the situation.
Titled “Here’s What You Need To Know About the Dispute Between Spectrum and Disney Entertainment,” it’s a predictable propaganda piece aimed at getting consumers to pressure Charter to cave in its position.
“To cut through the noise, here are some important points to consider as the dispute disrupts one of the biggest TV weekends of the year,” the message explains.
The bias is obvious and inherent. Consumers are smart enough to see that. And the message from ESPN is consistent with its corporate alignment.
“Although Charter claims that they value their customers, they declined Disney’s offer to extend negotiations which would have kept Disney-owned networks up for consumers in the middle of perennial programming events like the US Open and college football,” ESPN asserts.
The reality, however, is that all negotiations have to end, either in a deal or in the declaration of an impasse. When is the perfect time for consumers to lose access to ESPN? There’s always something either happening or coming soon. Currently, it’s tennis and college football. In a week, it will be the NFL. Then comes hockey. Then comes basketball, NBA followed by college. There’s always something that consumers will miss when ESPN goes dark on them.
The statement also addresses the heart of the dispute — consumer access to streaming platforms that, in Charter’s opinion, the increased subscription fees subsidize.
“Even though Charter also claims to value Disney’s direct-to-consumer services, the cable company is demanding these different services for free — as they have stated publicly — which does not make economic sense,” the ESPN statement declares. “Moreover, it does not make sense for consumers who desire the flexibility to have our streaming platforms as standalone services.”
The message includes this borderline cartoonish effort to pressure Charter: “Labor Day weekend is supposed to be one of the more relaxing holidays of the year in the U.S. Unfortunately, Charter has made it a stressful one for its customers — many of whom have been experiencing up to three-hour hold times to cancel their cable subscription after Disney’s networks went dark.”
The entire dispute represents a shared failure by both Disney and Charter. Disney can blame Charter for requesting terms that don’t make “economic sense,” and Charter can blame Disney for requesting terms that don’t make “economic sense.” When it was time to go to their mutual bottom-line positions as removal of the Disney channels loomed, they both failed to put the interests of consumers above their economic objectives.
Disney clearly wants to do a deal. Near the bottom of the email, ESPN says that “Disney deeply values its relationship with its viewers and is hopeful Charter is ready to have more conversations that will restore access to its content to Spectrum customers as quickly as possible.”
Eventually, a deal will be done. Someone will blink. Both sides will give a little. A solution will be found.
Along the way, the consumers will lose; Charter and Disney are equally responsible for that. Despite any efforts by ESPN to paint Charter as the villain, the better message would be for ESPN to apologize for the failure of its corporate overlord to work in a mature and productive way with Charter to keep the ESPN channels available to Spectrum customers, to ask Charter to apologize as well, and to commit to getting the situation resolved before the Jets host the Bills in eight days — which frankly is a far bigger deal than the US Open or college football.
Anything other than that is just more of the “noise” that ESPN claims its self-serving statement will “cut through.”