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Charter will provide credits to Spectrum TV customers over Disney dispute

All affected Spectrum TV subscribers will get a $15 bill credit if they lost one or more Disney-owned channels.

All affected Spectrum TV subscribers will get a $15 bill credit if they lost one or more Disney-owned channels.

Charter Communications will provide bill credits to Spectrum TV customers who were impacted by a week-long dispute that saw around a dozen channels owned by the Walt Disney Company blacked out on its pay TV platform.

During the dispute, Charter granted $15 bill credits to Spectrum TV subscribers who contacted customer service by phone or social media with complaints about the missing channels, which included ESPN, FX, Freeform and some ABC-owned stations in places like New York City and Los Angeles.

The dispute was resolved on Monday with a new carriage deal that provides Spectrum TV customers with most of the missing channels once again. The deal also allows Spectrum TV customers to get free access to the ad-supported tiers of two Disney streaming services — Disney Plus and ESPN Plus — based on their Spectrum TV channel package.

On Monday, a Charter spokesperson confirmed to some media outlets that the company was extending its $15 bill credits to all affected Spectrum TV customers, and would begin applying them to the accounts of customers who had not contacted the company with a complaint about the missing channels.

The issue between Charter and Disney centered around a common theme that is rooted in most distribution disputes between cable companies and the owners of television networks: How much Charter was willing to pay Disney in exchange for its linear broadcast and cable channels.

What made this particular dispute unusual is Charter’s affirmation that it was willing to pay Disney more money for ESPN, the Disney Channel, FX, National Geographic and ABC-owned stations (by constrast, most cable and satellite companies reject demands from programmers for higher fees), but the cable company said it wanted more than just the same set of linear channels in exchange.

Specifically, Charter said it wanted the ability to move Disney-owned channels around different packages, including two new budget-conscious plans that were aimed at saving Spectrum TV customers money. Charter also said it wanted Disney to provide free access to its ad-supported streaming services to Spectrum TV customers who had Disney-owned channels in their packages, since Disney — in Charter’s view — was siphoning its top television shows for its own streaming services.

While Charter called the offer a novel new approach to a pay television agreement, Disney initially balked at the request, saying the cable company’s offer wasn’t commensurate with the value of its channels and streaming services.

Media pundits believed the situation would be resolved over the weekend, or at least before Monday evening, given that ESPN and most ABC stations and affiliates were set to air the inaugural “Monday Night Football” telecast of the National Football League’s new season. The game involved a highly-anticipated match-up between the New York Jets and the Buffalo Bills.

Charter provides cable television under the Spectrum TV brand in both the New York City and Buffalo metropolitan areas. The dispute with Disney was particularly problematic to viewers in New York City, since cable television is one of the few reliable ways to watch ESPN and other pay TV networks in tall buildings where installing a satellite dish can be difficult, if not impossible. To make matters worse, the city’s local ABC station, WABC-TV (Channel 7), is owned by Disney, which meant Spectrum TV subscribers there would not have been able to watch “Monday Night Football” on the ABC simulcast unless a new deal was reached.

Though a new deal was reached in time for football fans to enjoy the game on Monday, the agreement between Charter and Disney will see the permanent removal of some Disney-owned channels from Spectrum TV, the companies affirmed.

From Monday onward, Spectrum TV customers won’t be able to access Baby TV, Freeform, FXX, FXM, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, Disney XD or Disney Junior. The decision to drop these channels means Spectrum TV customers won’t have access to Freeform’s holiday-themed marathons like “31 Nights of Halloween” or “25 Days of Christmas.”

That said, most shows that air across the dropped channels are widely available on Disney’s streaming services. Animated comedies that air on FXX — including “Archer,” “Bob’s Burgers,” “King of the Hill” and “Family Guy” — are available on Hulu, while National Geographic and Disney shows are available across Hulu and Disney Plus.

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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).