Disney Takes a Beating From Charter

Disney needs its cable TV relationships to work. Its overall financial situation has been undermined by slow traffic at its theme parks and the struggles of its streaming businesses, with Disney+ at the top of that list. Streaming efforts have lost billions of dollars, and subscriber counts have fallen.

Charter Communications, the big cable company, wants Disney to cut a deal that favors Charter’s profits. Charter carries Dinsey channels, which include EPS and FX. Disney charges Charter to carry these networks. The New York Times reports: “Until Disney and Charter reach an agreement, the company’s TV channels, including ESPN, will be dark for the 15 million people who subscribe to Charter’s Spectrum service.” Some of Disney’s content can be viewed via streaming, which makes Disney’s situation a little better.

Disney cannot afford another revenue drain. Disney+ lost 11.7 million subscribers in the last reported quarter, which brought its total to 146.1 million. Disney made the point that many of these left because it lost the right to include India’s Premier League cricket programs, but that is not the heart of the problem. These are 25 brands customers are abandoning.

When it was launched in November 2019, Disney+ was priced at $6.99 a month. This drove billions in losses, so Disney raised rates. Those rate increases could drive some subscribers away, and Disney will not find them easy to replace. The streaming business is wildly competitive. This is America’s favorite streaming service.

The Charter fiasco could keep some of Disney’s programs off the big cable system’s programming list for months. These are not months Disney can afford. Its shares have dropped 27% in the last year, and the fall-off has not ended.

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