Spectrum Subscribers Hit Charter With Class Action Lawsuit as Disney Dispute Continues

The blackout of channels like ESPN was compared to “Lucy taking the football away from Charlie Brown”

UF vs University of Utah
Bryson Barnes #16 of the Utah Utes rushes the ball away from Derek Wingo #15 and Tyreak Sapp #94 of the Florida Gators (Photo by Chris Gardner/Getty Images)

As the dispute between Disney and Charter Communications unfolds, Charter has been hit with a proposed class-action lawsuit, TheWrap has learned. The lawsuit comes from Spectrum subscribers, who say they were used as “a pawn in a clear money grab” from the cable company.

“Spectrum yanked the plug on college football fans and then blamed Mickey
Mouse,” the lawsuit reads.

The lawsuit was filed in a Florida federal court on Tuesday. The document faults Charter for declining Disney’s offer to extend negotiations between the entertainment giant and the cable distributer. If those negotiations were extended then Spectrum consumers would have been able to watch Disney-owned channels this past weekend.

The suit specifically references Gator Nation, the nickname given to fans of the University of Florida. Last Thursday, UF lost to University of Utah during the first week of college football. Due to Charter and Disney’s ongoing dispute, subscribers were unable to watch the first game of the season on ESPN. The lawsuit describes this blackout as a “‘Lucy taking the football away from Charlie Brown’ moment.”

“To make matters worse [Charter] attempted to divide people and anger them with an anti-Disney campaign,” the lawsuit continues.  

Plaintiffs are seeking for Charter to either provide the services paid for, i.e. restore Disney-owned channels to the cable provider, or to reimburse subscribers.

Charter Communications declined to comment for this story.

On the Thursday before Labor Day weekend, the dispute between Charter and Disney resulted in Charter blacking out several Disney-owned channels, including ESPN and ABC. That meant Spectrum subscribers were unable to watch these live sports hubs on the first weekend of college football and during the middle of the U.S. Open.

The dispute largely boils down to cost and flexibility. Disney has long provided its channels to Charter for a high premium. The previous deal between the two companies cost Charter $2.2 billion annually. During this negotiation, Charter agreed to Disney’s rate increases in exchange for bundling ad-supported streaming apps with packaged linear products. Disney declined this offer, but offered Charter an extension to keep its networks on the cable provider during negotiations. That was declined by Charter, hence the lawsuit.

Following the failed negotiation, Disney urged Charter’s 14.7 million subscribers to ditch cable for Hulu with Live TV. It should be noted that the streaming option is majority owned by Disney.

The Hollywood Reporter was the first to report this story.