The battle between Charter Communications and Walt Disney, spurred due to cord-cutting, is now getting very tangled.
Charter suggested last week that it might be ready to cut Disney networks from its programming lineup after the two companies reached an impasse in talks to extend their carriage contract Now Disney is hinting to Charter subscribers that they might want to cut their connection with the large cable distributor.
Disney released a series of social-media promotions Sunday evening telling Charter subscribers to consider subscribing to Hulu with its live TV option, an offering that would get them dozens of the cable networks they watch via Charter, but also some they don’t currently receive — namely outlets owned by Disney. “There’s no contract, no cable box, and no wait time to subscribe,” Disney said in a blog post Sunday. The company introduced the option, which offers 90 different channels, in 2017.Disney planned to issue the message about Hulu through many of its social-media channels.
Disney’s Hulu maneuver represents just the latest bit of wrangling between the two companies, which appear locked in a battle that could upend the media industry. Disney on Thursday yanked its popular TV networks, which include ESPN, ABC and Disney Channel, from Charter’s Spectrum cable service, which reaches nearly 15 million homes, including many in big markets like New York City and Los Angeles. At issue, the companies say, is Disney’s interest in seeking higher rates placed against Charter’s desire to gain more flexibility in the way it packages Disney’s properties Charter also wants to offer Disney streaming services like Disney+ at no additional cost to its customers — a move that would erode some of the new business Disney has gained with these popular hubs.
“This is not a typical carriage dispute,” said Christopher Winfrey, Charter’s CEO, during a call with investors Friday morning.
Charter has noted that the rise of streaming services such as Disney+ and Hulu has degraded cable, forcing customers to pay for channels that have less premium content, or for networks they may not regularly use, then spurring them to pay in a second arrangement for a streaming alternative. Charter, said Winfrey, has proposed a new model that would allow for the flexibility of not forcing customers who don’t regularly engage with Disney or ESPN networks to pay more money for them, while making available ad-supported versions of Disney streaming services as part of packages.
On Sunday, Disney appeared to propose that Charter customers dump the distributor and just use streaming to get all the networks they might want. “Hulu + Live TV also comes with Hulu’s deep library of exclusive TV shows and hit films, ad-supported Disney+ and ESPN+ all in one plan, and unlimited DVR, which allows you to record and store your favorite content for up to nine months,” Disney said. “Disney’s networks and stations are also available on other TV streaming services such as DIRECTV Stream, YouTube TV, Sling, and Fubo.”