Consumer Alert: NY Governor Kathy Hochul demands refunds for Charter customers
This consumer alert is all about you, your TV, and this protracted fee fight between Disney and Charter, which owns Spectrum. Charter customers haven’t been able to watch any Disney channels, including ESPN, for more than a week. And today Governor Kathy Hochul jumped in the fray, saying she’s directing the state Department of Public Service to make sure customers get refunds.
“An ongoing corporate dispute is forcing customers to miss some of the highest profile televised events of the year – the least these companies can do is provide a refund.,” said Hochul. She went on to say, “I also urge Disney to continue providing its programming under the terms of the prior agreement while negotiations continue.”
In speaking with a Charter spokesperson, she reemphasized Charter’s position saying that Charter has agreed to Disney’s rate increase even though Charter believes it to be excessive. She insists Disney is trying to force Spectrum customers to pay for their expensive programming, even those customers who don’t want it or can’t afford it.
Spectrum leaders believe the prevalence of streaming services dictates a new model for programmers and cable providers.
Let me explain what she was referencing. Cable companies like Charter have to pay programmers like Disney a fee for every person getting Disney’s channels. In the last contract that was about $2.2 billion. Your cable bill has to cover the cost of that programming.
But Charter says 25 percent of former customers have dropped cable, in part because of the cost. So, the Charter CEO Christopher Winfrey says he wants to provide cheaper bundles and more choice.
This impasse has become so contentious, the CEO told investors Thursday that it’s possible that Disney along with its sports channel ESPN could be dropped from Charter cable permanently.
“And so you’d have a smaller base of customers, but you’d have a smaller package with a much better price and it would be a package of general entertainment content that customers actually wanted, watched and valued,” said Winfrey. “And it would stick, and it could actually grow from that point.”
Another sticking point in these negotiations is the fact Disney wants to charge cable customers for access to its apps. Charter argues that is essentially charging cable customers twice for the same product.
I reached out to Disney and didn’t get a response by my deadline. But in past statements, Disney leaders have argued that giving cable companies access to its apps is essentially giving away its streaming services for free. Disney also argues the fees it’s demanding from Charter are “market rates,” and it was Charter, not Disney, that walked away from talks on the eve of the sports-rich Labor Day weekend.
We have another big sports weekend coming up with college football and the finals of the U.S. Open on the schedule, both of which are aired on ESPN.
Here are options for Spectrum customers to get those channels for free in the short-term, but it requires you to have high speed cable at your home. With all these options you can get ESPN with the hope that Spectrum and Disney settle their dispute quickly and you can cancel the trial.
I’ve also learned that viewers who call Charter customer service are given a $15 credit on your next bill. But you have to call the cable company to get the credit. The number is 1 (833) 267-6094. It’s not immediately clear how the New York Department of Public Safety’s refund mandate might affect that amount, but for now a $15 credit is what Charter is offering.