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Spectrum TV vs. Disney: Charter CEO Ready to Move On Without ESPN

By Phillip Swann
The TV Answer Man – @tvanswerman

Charter CEO Chris Winfrey yesterday said little progress has been made in his company’s carriage dispute with Disney, adding that he’s prepared to walk away from offering packages with expensive sports channels such as Disney’s ESPN. The cable executive said as the impasse continues, sports fans will cancel Charter, leaving Charter’s Spectrum TV with less incentive to settle with Disney whose 26 channels (including ESPN) have been missing from Spectrum since 8 p.m. ET on August 31. “The average customer who remains isn’t going to be a sports customer…f we’re moving on, that’s OK,” Winfrey told a Goldman Sachs conference.

Meanwhile, Disney issued a statement yesterday blasting Charter for allegedly not caring about its customers. “As the U.S. Open reaches the men’s and women’s finals, and fans gear up for a weekend of college football and the opening of the NFL season, it’s unfortunate that Charter decided to abandon their consumers by denying them access to our great programming,” Disney said in a statement. “While they have stated their indifference to the needs of millions of paying customers, we will not lose sight of what is most important – investing in the highest-quality stories, news and sports for our audience. The question for Charter is clear: Do you care about your subscribers and what they’re telling you they want – or not?”

Charter has maintained that Disney isn’t being flexible, maintaining that the cable op should continue paying the traditional rate for its 26 Disney channels as well as offering ESPN in every package. But Charter says it needs to be able to not offer ESPN in some lower-cost packages which would attract cord-cutters. Like other pay TV services, Charter has lost a significant number of subscribers to less-expensive streaming alternatives.

The impasse is about to enter its second weekend with the NFL regular season already underway. ESPN and ABC both are carrying the Monday Night Football game between the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills. Spectrum TV subscribers are without ESPN and ABC affiliates in seven markets.

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— Phillip Swann

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