Just as the 2023 college football season dawned Thursday, ESPN’s smorgasbord of networks went dark.
At least for those with Spectrum cable and streaming services.
Moments before the University of Florida’s season opener against Utah — televised on ESPN — kicked off Thursday evening, Spectrum customers lost programming on all ESPN channels, as well as their affiliated networks.
The coverage of the highly anticipated Gators-Utes game, as well as U.S. Open coverage on ESPN2 and the Elon-Wake Forest game on the ACC Network (owned and operated by ESPN), was supplanted by a lengthy message on TV screens indicating a dispute with Disney — parent company of ESPN — led to the blackout.
“The Walt Disney Company, the owner of this channel, has removed their programming from Spectrum which creates hardship for our customers. We apologize for the inconvenience and are continuing to negotiate in good faith in order to reach a fair agreement.
“We offered Disney a fair deal, yet they are demanding an excessive increase. They also want to limit our ability to provide greater customer choice in programming packages forcing you to take and pay for channels you may not want. We are very disappointed with their position, which has negatively impacted our customers.
“Spectrum is on your side and fighting to keep costs down while protecting and maximizing customer choice. The rising cost of programming is the single greatest factor in higher cable TV prices, and we are fighting hard to hold the line on programming rates imposed on us by companies like Disney.
“Our negotiations are about one thing — reaching an agreement that is fair to our customers. We understand this is an inconvenience and hope to return this programming soon. We appreciate your loyalty and look forward to continuing to serve you.”
Disney-owned channels affected by the Spectrum blackout include ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN News, SEC Network, ACC Network, Longhorn Network, FX, FX Movie Channel, FXX, Freeform, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and BabyTV.
“Disney Entertainment has successful deals in place with pay TV providers of all types and sizes across the country, and the rates and terms we are seeking in this renewal are driven by the marketplace. We’re committed to reaching a mutually agreed upon resolution with Charter and we urge them to work with us to minimize the disruption to their customers,” Disney Entertainment said in a statement.
Nationally, some affiliates of ABC (another Disney property) also were impacted, though WFTS — the bay area’s ABC affiliate — remained a part of Spectrum programming Thursday night. FSU’s season opener Sunday night against LSU will be broadcast on ABC.
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Naturally, the sudden blackout spawned a tsunami of outrage on social media.
Spectrum is owned by Charter Communications and serves 32 million customers in 41 states, according to its website. Its customers were encouraged to go to disneyespnfairdeal.com and send Disney executives an email voicing their opinion of the blackout.
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