- Disney’s Bob Iger is going head-to-head with “cable cowboy” John Malone in a tussle about payments.
- Charter Communications stopped offering Disney-owned channels after the company rejected a new contract.
- Iger has floated the idea of selling Disney’s television broadcast assets.
Writers and actors are on strike, his streaming platform is losing buckets of cash, and now Disney CEO Bob Iger has another headache to contend with — a battle with Charter Communications director emeritus, John Malone, who is nicknamed the cable cowboy.
Disney is embroiled in a tussle with Charter Communications, the second-biggest cable operator, which is owned by Malone, over the terms of a new contract for carrying its channels.
Charter said Disney had rejected its latest proposal. In a lengthy summary of an investors’ call, it said Disney wanted higher fees for its channels, but refused to waive charges for its streaming services to Charter customers.
Charter argued this meant customers were effectively paying twice to view Disney programs. It is reluctant to give into Disney’s demands, which it says would force it to raise fees even higher.
The cable operator claims the demands are unrealistic amid “significant viewership declines” across Disney’s channels.
Disney said in a statement it had offered Charter “the most favorable terms on rates, distribution, packaging, advertising and more,” adding: “Charter has refused to enter into a new agreement with us that reflects market-based terms.”
Charter upped the heat on Disney Thursday when it turned off the company’s channels, including FX and ESPN, for its 15 million customers. That means Spectrum customers are without content such as the US Open tennis this holiday weekend, The New York Times reported.
ESPN has been one of the few cable channels to swim against the tide and even increased its audience by 12% last year, Nielsen data viewed by the Los Angeles Times showed. Its content is not yet available on streaming.
Charter has threatened to permanently bar all Disney’s channels from its service, but Iger is not backing down either.
The cable company said the model used to fund cable was broken and must either be altered, or abandoned entirely, per the NY Times.
In the longer term, Iger said on an earnings call last month that Disney was looking at “a variety of strategic options” for networks, including the Disney Channel, NatGeo, and FX.
However, traditional TV still generates considerable revenue for Disney — $28.4 billion and profits of $8.5 billion last year, its annual report said. Streaming service Disney+ continues to hemorrhage cash.
Fees from Charter were expected to generate $2.2 billion for Disney, its latest results showed.
There’s also advertising revenue on top of that, which is shared with the cable operator.
Charter said in a statement sent to Insider after this story’s publication that it was disappointed with Disney’s decision to remove its networks from Charter’s lineup.
It said: “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. 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.”