If you need a straightforward apples-to-apples comparison to make sense of how the TV world works, look no further than the difference in subscriber losses/gains between Charter Spectrum and Comcast. The companies are the two largest cable companies in the country. Last quarter one had a drawn-out blackout with Disney that led to the loss of the ESPN family of networks along with a number of other Disney-owned networks and one did not. Guess which one suffered the most losses?
The losses were not because people were enraged about access to FX and Freeform. They were over the loss of ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU and the bevy of networks from the “Sports Leader” that were unavailable at the kickoff of college football.
All of the major cable/satellite providers lost customers as the march of cord-cutting continues, but Spectrum took a bigger hit than Comcast during September when the college football season got into action.
Lesson for TV Providers
You will always lose the battle and the war when it comes to negotiating over sports. Cable and satellite are not the only way people can access networks like ESPN anymore, so losing access on your platform means that people will look to multiple competitors in response. Just get it done. If you are going to go dark on a major sports channel do it before the fall. IF you are going to have a fight with providers over CBS, NBC, or FOX don’t make the same mistake again and run a message about the greed of the other side. You will always and I mean ALWAYS get the blame. Because people have had years of fighting bogus charges, waiting in long lines and getting terrible customer service from the cable company. That industry will never get the benefit of the doubt when a loved channel goes dark, even if its position is absolutely right. So make the deal early.