More than 2.6 million customers could soon lose ABC and ESPN in a dispute between Disney and cable company Altice, USA Today reports. The dispute potentially affecting customers in the New York area centers on how much Altice USA should pay The Walt Disney Co. for its programming, with ESPN a big part of the equation.
“Disney has been warning viewers — with scrolling messages on broadcasts — that they could lose those channels, as well as the Disney Channel, if the two companies don’t come to an agreement, reportedly by the end of month,” USA Today reports. “Those customers in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Pennsylvania were previously served by Cablevision, which the Netherlands-based Altice acquired two years ago for $17.7 billion.”
The report notes that Altice USA is the fourth-largest U.S. cable operator, with almost 5 million customers nationwide including those from its May 2015 acquisition of Suddenlink, which covers parts of Texas, West Virginia, Louisiana and 14 other states.
In a statement, Disney said: “Our contract with Altice is due to expire soon, so we have a responsibility to make our viewers aware of the potential loss of our programming. We remain fully committed to reaching a deal and are hopeful we can do so.”
USA Today reports: “Altice charged Disney with making ‘anti-consumer demands,’ including ‘double the rates for ABC’ and ‘exorbitant’ fee hikes for ESPN, overall amounting to ‘hundreds of millions of dollars more’ than the current contract, the company said in a statement.”
The report quotes the Altice statement saying: “We want to carry ESPN and its sister networks, including ABC and Disney, at a reasonable rate and have already offered an increase in retransmission fees and sports programming costs.”
Altice has also said that Disney programming has seen double-digit declines annually among Optimum viewers.