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Charter, Disney reach deal to end blackout of ESPN, FX

Spectrum TV customers will get free access to some Disney streamers — but a handful of channels like Freeform and FXX won't be offered anymore.

Spectrum TV customers will get free access to some Disney streamers — but a handful of channels like Freeform and FXX won't be offered anymore.

The Alameda Avenue entrance to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California as it appeared in 2016.
The Alameda Avenue entrance to the Walt Disney Studios in Burbank, California as it appeared in 2016. (Photo by Cool Ceasar via Wikimedia Commons, Graphic edited by The Desk)

Charter Communications and the Walt Disney Company have reached a new distribution agreement that will make ESPN, FX, the Disney Channel and most ABC-owned local stations available to subscribers of Spectrum TV once again.

The deal ends an eight-day impasse that saw around 15 million Spectrum TV subscribers lose access to around a dozen Disney-owned channels.

In a statement, Charter officials said the new agreement creates a novel distribution model that will allow Spectrum TV customers to access linear channels and Disney-owned streaming apps as part of their plan — just as Charter had proposed late last month.

“Our collective goal has always been to build an innovative model for the future,” Disney CEO Bob Iger and Charter CEO Chris Winfrey said in the joint statement. “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. We also want to thank our mutual customers for their patience this past week, and are pleased that Spectrum viewers once again have access to Disney’s high-quality sports, news and entertainment programming, in time for Monday Night Football.”

Over the next few months, Charter and Disney will work together to provide customers of Spectrum TV’s “Select” package free access to the ad-supported tier of Disney Plus. Additionally, subscribers of Spectrum TV’s “Select Plus” package will get free access to ESPN Plus.

Once Disney launches a standalone streaming service that includes ESPN’s linear channels, that product will become available to subscribers of Spectrum TV’s “Select” package or higher, the companies affirmed.

Charter said it will use its “significant distribution capabilities” to market Disney’s streaming services — which includes Hulu and a bundle that offers Hulu, Disney Plus and ESPN Plus together — to TV, broadband and mobile phone customers.

While the new deal restores many of the core Disney-owned channels to Spectrum TV, there are some channels that will no longer be available in legacy Spectrum TV video packages, the companies said. The affected channels include Baby TV, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FXX, FXM, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo.

 

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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).