By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman

TV Answer Man, we have lost ESPN right before all the great college football games are starting! How long will this blackout fight last? And is there any way to keep watching ESPN? We don’t care much about the other channels. We want ESPN!! Should we switch to YouTube TV? — Sam, New York.
Sam, Charter’s Spectrum TV customers last night lost the entire Disney suite of channels, including ESPN, when the cable TV operator failed to reach a new carriage agreement with the programmer.

The dispute is a complicated one with issues ranging from carriage fees to ESPN’s plan to launch a standalone streaming service to how sports networks should be offered to subscribers in the future. In many ways, the Spectrum-Disney fight is one about how long pay TV operators will continue to operate in a streaming world and how much programmers should expect to get in carriage fees from a declining pay TV industry. Despite the big issues involved, I still expect the battle to last fewer than two weeks, and perhaps less than one. And because of that, I have a great idea on how you can continue watching ESPN without spending much money or cancelling your cable TV service.

Sling TV, the live streaming service owned by Dish, has ESPN (and other Disney channels) in its Orange base plan for just $20 for the first month. If the blackout does last less than a month, you could continue watching the sports network without subscribing to YouTube TV ($64.99 a month for the first three months) or another more expensive service. You just have to pay $20. The monthly rate increases to $40 after month one so you could reassess if the impasse extends past a month. But Sling TV is your best bet to watch ESPN during the blackout without shelling out scores of dollars.

In case you’re wondering, ESPN does not have a standalone streaming service. The company does have ESPN+, but the $9.99 a month streamer does not include the entire ESPN lineup; many games and shows are not available. However, if you would be happy with a mini-ESPN, ESPN+ might be your answer.

Sam, hope that helps. Happy viewing and stay safe!

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— Phillip Swann