A class action has arrived at the doorstep of Charter Communications in its high-stakes carriage standoff with The Walt Disney Co.
A Florida customer of Charter’s Spectrum service, Jen Gonzalez, filed suit in a Florida federal court, alleging that the company has continued to bill for services not delivered. The impasse in Charter’s dispute with Disney has left customers across the country without ESPN and other Disney-owned channels.
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The impasse between the two companies is being viewed as a potential game changer for linear TV, but the class action lawsuit puts the blame on Charter for failing to come to an agreement with Disney. (Read the Charter class action lawsuit).
“Unlike other cable providers, Spectrum, “declined Disney’s offer to extend negotiations which would have kept Disney-owned networks up for consumers in the middle of perennial programming events like the US Open and college football,” the lawsuit states. “Instead of providing the programming its viewers pay hundreds of dollars a month for, Spectrum, in the middle of the U.S. Open, college football and the start of the Labor Day weekend – easily one of the busiest TV weekends of the year, decided to use sport’s fans and other spectrum consumers as a pawn in a clear money grab. To make matters worse they attempted to divide people and anger them with an anti-Disney campaign.” The case singled out the ESPN outage last Thursday, shortly before the start of the University of Florida and University of Utah college football game.
Charter has told customers that they offered Disney a “fair deal, yet they are demanding an excessive increase.” Yet Charter CEO Chris Winfrey has attacked what he called a “massive cannibalization” between Disney cable networks and streaming siblings Disney+ and Hulu. Charter proposed a hybrid model that would combine Disney’s linear and streaming services, and Winfrey has suggested that Charter would look to exit the video business altogether if no deal is reached.
The class action lawsuit seeks an order requiring that Charter provide the channels or that customers are reimbursed. The complaint also noted that there is a subclass of Florida consumers who were charged their whole bill “despite not being allotted access to all the advertised services.” The lawsuit alleged breach of contract and deceptive trade practices.
“Spectrum pulled the plug on college football and then blamed Mickey Mouse,” read the first line of the lawsuit, in keeping with lawyers’ efforts to grab attention in the first sentence of a complaint.
“Family and friends across America were eagerly waiting for the highly anticipated, beginning of college football, beginning on August 31, 2023, at 8:00 p.m. Instead, the Gator Nation, along with football fans across the country experienced a ‘Lucy taking the football away from Charlie Brown’ moment as Spectrum pulled the football game, broadcasted a blackout, and then claimed, ‘Disney made us do it.'”
A Charter spokesperson said that they had no comment.
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