Charter Spectrum drops ESPN, angering college football, U.S. Open fans

A Georgia Tech game on ESPN Friday night may be impacted.

ESPN and several Disney channels went dark for Charter Spectrum cable subscribers Thursday night, impacting fans watching college football and the U.S. Open tennis tournament.

This is part of a dispute over what fees Charter Spectrum is willing to pay for Disney-owned channels. Those fees get passed on to subscribers.

Charter Spectrum, which has 14.7 million subscribers nationwide, is available in parts of metro Atlanta. The company does not reveal city specific subscriber figures.

On Thursday night, subscribers missed a college football game between the University of Florida and Utah on ESPN and the second round of the U.S. Open on ESPN2.

“We’re very disappointed for our fans and viewers around the country that Spectrum and Charter could not resolve their dispute with Disney, resulting in a loss of ESPN coverage of Thursday night’s matches. We’re very hopeful that this dispute can be resolved as quickly as possible,” said Chris Widmaier, spokesman for the U.S. Tennis Association, in a statement.

Friday night’s Georgia Tech vs. Louisville football matchup and Saturday’s Auburn vs. Massachusetts and Texas A&M vs. New Mexico games could be blacked out as well.

Disney and Charter both released statements defending their positions.

“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.

“We are disappointed with The Walt Disney Company’s decision to remove their networks from our lineup and deny our customers the opportunity to watch,” Charter Spectrum said in an accompanying statement. “We would agree to The Walt Disney Company’s significant rate increase despite their declining ratings. But they are trying to force our customers to pay for their very expensive programming, even those customers who don’t want it or worse, can’t afford it.”

Charter Spectrum said “the current video ecosystem is broken. With The Walt Disney Company, we have proposed a model that creates better alignment for the industry and better choices for our customers. We are hopeful we can find a path forward.”

Subscribers also lost access to other Disney-owned channels such as Disney, National Geographic, Freeform and FX.

This type of dispute has become common in recent years as millions of people cut the cord and spend money on streaming services instead, depriving both cable distributors and cable network owners significant amounts of revenue.