Disney discreetly gives access ESPN tennis player to watch live match coverage.

Amid an ongoing dispute with cable provider Charter Communications, Disney is discreetly granting US Open tennis players access to its tournament coverage. This move comes after Disney withdrew ESPN, ABC, and other channels from Charter’s Spectrum service on September 1. While this dispute has left nearly 15 million US customers without these popular pay-TV channels, it also affected sports enthusiasts, including tennis players, who rely on these channels for live match coverage.

Player Complaints Several tennis players, including world No. 3 Daniil Medvedev and rising star Coco Gauff, voiced their frustration about not being able to watch opponents’ matches while in New York due to the ongoing dispute. Medvedev resorted to watching matches on unofficial streaming websites, highlighting the inconvenience caused by the programming fees feud.

Disney’s Response In response to player complaints, Disney, which also owns Hulu, started providing secure logins to The Walt Disney Company app for some Open players. This allowed players like Medvedev and former player John McEnroe, who had tested positive for Covid-19 and missed matches, to access the coverage. Disney also extended this offer to some members of the media covering the tournament.

Ongoing Cable War The dispute between Disney and Charter, one of the busiest weeks for live sports in the US, remains unresolved. The start of the NFL season is approaching, with Disney and ESPN holding exclusive rights to Monday Night Football, a highly-rated weekly broadcast. Disney’s push toward direct-to-consumer streaming, including Hulu + Live TV, clashes with Charter’s efforts to retain cable customers.

The ESPN Challenge ESPN, as a cornerstone of US sports programming, continues to hold a vital position in cable television. Disney receives substantial carriage fees from Charter Spectrum, and this dispute primarily centers on ESPN, which lacks a streaming service but remains a significant cable attraction.

Dispute Details Charter Spectrum displayed a message urging viewers to contact Disney, claiming that Disney was demanding excessive increases. Disney countered these claims, stating that they had offered favorable terms to Charter on rates, distribution, packaging, and advertising. This dispute has financial implications for both companies, with Charter seeing a 3.6 percent drop in shares, and Disney losing 2.4 percent.

Implications for Disney Analysts suggest that Disney could lose billions in profits each year from its traditional TV business if an agreement is not reached. While Disney is transitioning toward direct-to-consumer streaming with Disney+, they still rely on the cash flow from ESPN. CEO Bob Iger has expressed the desire to find a strategic partner for ESPN to help with this transition.

The Hybrid Model Charter and Disney have been seen as ideal partners to establish a hybrid model that combines linear TV with direct-to-consumer streaming. Charter serves over 32 million customers across 41 states and has been paying approximately $2.2 billion annually in programming costs to Disney.

In conclusion, the cable dispute between Disney and Charter Communications has had ripple effects, impacting not only cable customers but also sports enthusiasts and players. The resolution of this dispute could shape the future of sports programming and direct-to-consumer streaming in the US.

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