skip to main content
We may earn money when you click our links.

Why Are ABC and ESPN Not Available on Charter? Your Questions Answered

TV screen showing the Disney and Charter names

The Take

  • Disney has gone dark on Charter Communications (aka Spectrum), with ESPN, FX, ABC, and Disney Channel unavailable for customers nationwide.
  • Disney is encouraging Spectrum customers to sign up for the Disney Bundle, so they don’t miss any U.S. Open or college football action.
  • You can still watch blacked-out channels, including sports, on Hulu + Live TV and ESPN+ until the dispute is resolved.
  • Disney reported a 60% uptick in Hulu + Live TV sign-ups, while Charter has said this dispute may signal its exit from the cable carrier business.

Since Thursday, August 31, Disney channels have been blacked out for Charter Spectrum customers—affecting nearly 15 million people across the U.S., including major markets in New York City and Los Angeles.

The blackout means Charter subscribers can’t watch the U.S. Open (including in NYC, where the Open takes place), college football games, or even the local ABC News station with their cable package. (They can access Disney programming through streaming, though.)

However, customers can still sign up for Disney’s streaming services, including Hulu + Live TV, which can mimic a cable package. As Disney pushes Charter customers to the Disney, Hulu, and ESPN Bundle, Charter Communications has threatened to leave the cable provider business altogether.

Disney pulling its programming from Charter Spectrum is reminiscent of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes occurring right now in Hollywood. While Charter said it offered Disney a “fair deal,” the writers’ and actors’ unions have not received a fair deal from the major studios, including Disney.

FYI: Charter Communications and Spectrum are the same company, you may be facing a Disney-owned channel blackout with Spectrum as well. Spectrum is the trade name of Charter Communications and Spectrum broadband services are offered to customers by Charter. (Confusing, right?)

What does the Disney-Charter dispute mean for me?

If you like ABC, Disney Channel, Freeform, FX, National Geographic, or ESPN, you can’t watch any of those channels until Disney and Charter resolve their dispute and make a deal.

Although the dispute impacts Charter customers, it actually has nothing to do with them. The dispute concerns how much Charter pays Disney for the channels, including ESPN, ABC, FX, and Disney Channel. Charter wants to include Disney streaming services (Disney+, Hulu, and ESPN+) in their cable package at no extra cost, but Disney wants an additional fee for the streaming services.

Basically, if you want to watch anything on ABC, FX, ESPN, or any other Disney-owned channel, and you have a Charter cable package, then you’re out of luck. Local ABC stations in Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, San Francisco, Raleigh-Durham, Houston, and Fresno are also impacted.

How could the Disney-Charter carriage dispute end?

In most carrier disputes, the sides come to an agreement and restore channels for the cable customers. But as we near one week into the dispute, one side has to blink, and neither seems like they are going to.

Disney is directing its fans to Hulu + Live TV, saying, “You don’t need a cable provider to watch your favorite live sports, news, and shows.” Those are fighting words.

Meanwhile, Charter-Spectrum is appealing to customers by writing, “This impact to customers is consistent with past practices from Disney, no matter who you get your service from.” The company cites previous Disney carrier disputes with YouTube, Dish, and Sling. Charter-Spectrum says it is “fighting to keep costs down” for customers.

As we’ll talk about below, the Charter-Disney dispute feels different, with Disney able to direct customers to streaming services and Charter threatening to leave the cable provider business altogether. It’s possible that the dispute won’t end—but that would be a bad look for both companies.

Does the Disney-Charter carriage dispute spell the end for cable TV?

Don’t worry—all of us at aren’t going anywhere! But cable TV packages, as we may know them, may be on their way out… In fact, Charter fired the shot heard ’round the world when they said the “video ecosystem is broken” and they may exit the cable business. Charter is the No. 2 cable operator in the U.S., and a thinning of the market means rising costs for consumers and accelerated cord-cutting.

Last year, when surveyed Americans who still pay for cable, 42% said they wanted to watch live events—sports, award shows, news, and political content—and 20% said they keep cable for live sports. With the Charter-Disney dispute happening during key live sporting events—like the U.S. Open and the college football season kick-off—and Disney encouraging cable customers to go for Hulu + Live TV and ESPN+ to fill the gap, many cable subscribers may discover there is a different path forward.

However, in an X, formerly Twitter, discussion on Tuesday, many people sticking with cable said the technology learning curves, bundle price or convenience, and picture quality are why they stay.

So, ultimately, could Charter win out and retain cable subscribers? Well, Disney has reported a 60% uptick in Hulu + Live TV+ subscriptions, according to Deadline, which spells bad news for Charter. However, there may be churn for Hulu once sporting events like the U.S. Open conclude, whereas Charter cable customers remain for contracts.

Warner Bros. Discovery CEO David Zaslav said the dispute feels like “a moment” for the industry. (Linear networks contribute to around half of WBD’s revenue, but Zaslav noted recent Max pushes, including adding CNN to the streamer, are part of a restructure and push away from linear. The company does not have any carrier renewals until 2024.)

No matter how this ends, it is a big moment for studios and cable providers. It may not be the end of cable TV, but it is definitely a sign of where the future may be.

Where can I watch my favorite Disney shows now?

If you’re a Charter Communications subscriber, your only option is to subscribe to a Disney streaming service.

Hulu + Live TV offers ABC, ESPN, FX, and National Geographic, while ESPN+ includes even more sports content. Hulu is the way to go if you’re looking for popular scripted and unscripted shows from ABC and FX. Hulu + Live TV also offers regular cable channels, giving Charter cord-cutters a different option.

Disney does offer a bundle with all three streaming options: Disney+, ESPN+, and Hulu (including the Live TV option as an add-on).

Where can I watch NFL and college football?

For an up-to-the-minute viewing schedule, check out’s NFL Watch Guide.

Many games are still available on CBS, NBC, Amazon Prime Video, and FOX, but Monday Night Football tends to air on ABC and ESPN, which Charter customers cannot access. (Those games stream on ESPN+, so that’s an option for NFL fans.)

Meanwhile, watching college football games without cable brings you back into the Disney fold with Hulu + Live TV and ESPN+. As our college football watch guide notes, there are 25+ conference games on ESPN+ and even more Hulu + Live TV game options.

But all of these options are on Disney-owned channels, which are unavailable for Charter customers. But luckily, Disney-owned streamers are available!

Don't miss an update

Stay updated on the latest products and services anytime anywhere.