Taking their tense program licensing renewal talk public as their current deal is about to sunset, Altice and the Walt Disney Company exchanged rhetorical salvos over the weekend.
“Despite the fact that viewership of their programming by Optimum customers has been declining in the double digits for years, ESPN and its owner are demanding double the rates for ABC for the same content they offer today, exorbitant fee increases for ESPN, and are trying to force customers who don’t receive ESPN to have to pay for it,” Altice said in a statement.
Altice added that it has “already offered an increase in retransmission fees and sports programming costs.”
Responded Disney: “The typical Optimum customer pays $160 or more each month for service to Altice, and the bulk of that money goes into their pocket. For broadcast basic, Altice charges its customers $34, which is more than 15x the amount we are seeking for the market’s most watched station, WABC.”
Altice is now the fourth biggest cable operator in the U.S. with around 4.3 million pay-TV customers. At the heart of the Disney talks is, of course, ESPN. Disney not only wants to increase its carriage rate for that national sports network, which averages around $7.54 a subscriber, according to SNL Kagan, it also wants Altice to carry regional sports channels like the SEC Network.
This makes sense for the Suddenlink portion of the Altice footprint. However, it’s questionable how much relevance Alabama football and other SEC Network programming have for Northeasterners in the erstwhile Cablevision portion of the Altice pie.
Disney has threatened to pull ESPN, Disney Channel, the ABC broadcast network and the rest of its programming portfolio off Altice if a new deal isn’t reached by the end of the month.
“This behavior by ESPN is anti-consumer, and we urge ESPN and its owner to stop the threats, leave their programming on for customers and focus on negotiating an agreement that is fair for our Optimum customers,” Altice said.