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ESPN restored, but Spectrum customers lose Freeform, Disney Junior, FX Movies, Nat Geo Wild


Are you ready for some football? Hours before the season premiere of ESPN's Monday Night Football, Disney's channels were restored to Spectrum and Charter cable systems, ending a 10-day dispute.

A "transformative, multi-year distribution agreement" was announced by Disney and Charter, the nation's second-largest cable operator, which "maximizes value for consumers and supports the linear (cable) TV experience as the industry continues to evolve," according to a statement.

The ESPN networks and other Disney channels were restored — but Spectrum customers immediately lost Freeform, Disney Junior, Disney XD, FX Movies, FXX, Baby TV, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo on Monday.

ESPN and the Disney channels were dropped Aug. 31 when talks broke off over Charter's desire to get a piece of the popular Disney+ streaming services. Executives at Charter, after seeing cable TV lose nearly 25 million customers (25%) to cord-cutting in five years, said the "current video ecosystem is broken."

Under the agreement announced Monday by Bob Iger, Walt Disney Company CEO, and Chris Winfrey, Charter Communications president and CEO:

  • The Disney+ Basic ad-supported service will be provided in coming months to customers who purchase the Spectrum TV Select package. (Altafiber has a Disney+ channel which offers subscribers a discounted introductory rate for the streaming service.)
  • ESPN+ will be provided to Spectrum TV Select Plus subscribers.
  • The ESPN flagship direct-to-consumer streaming service will be made available to Spectrum TV Select subscribers when launched by Disney.
  • Charter "will use its significant distribution capabilities to offer Disney's direct-to-consumer services to all of its customers — in particular its large broadband-only customer base — for purchase at retail rates. These include Disney+, Hulu and ESPN+, as well as the Disney bundle," according to the joint statement.
  • Charter also will "maintain flexibility to offer a range of video packages at varying price points based upon different customer's viewing preferences."

Spectrum customers nationwide will notice some channel additions. Spectrum immediately will provide "widespread access to a more curated lineup of 19 (Disney) networks," including the Disney Channel, FX, Nat Geo and "the full ESPN network suite," according to the joint statement.

RELATED: Disney/ESPN dispute with Spectrum latest example of how our 'video ecosystem is broken'

Variety reportedthat some of the Freeform, FXM, Disney Junior, Baby TV and Nat Geo Wild content "remains available on other cable properties Charter will carry, or can be found on Disney+ or Hulu. While Hulu is not made part of the deal, Disney is slated to unveil a new product that will allow Disney+ subscribers to toggle to Hulu within the same app."

"Our collective goal has always been to build an innovative model for the future. 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," said Iger and Winfrey in the statement.

"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," they said.

Streaming revenues also are the reason Hollywood writers and actors are on strike, and at the heart of the financial problems at the Bally Sports regional TV networks operated by Diamond Group, a subsidiary of Sinclair Broadcast Group.

John Kiesewetter, who has covered television and media for more than 35 years, has been working for Cincinnati Public Radio and WVXU-FM since 2015.