Charter CFO Says Subscriber Losses From Disney Carriage Dispute Were ‘Much Less’ Than Anticipated

Charter’s subscriber losses from its carriage dispute with Disney have been “much less” than what the company initially anticipated, chief financial officer Jessica Fischer revealed Wednesday. She added that the impact to the company’s broadband subscribers was “very, very small.”

“We believe that we’ve come out on the other side of this really still doing well from a subscriber perspective,” she said during an investor conference hosted by Bank of America – the cable giant’s first public remarks since reaching a new carriage deal.

In the second quarter of 2023, the company reported a total of 14.7 million video customers. Fischer declined to disclose the specific amount of losses Charter experienced.

Fischer said Charter was “really happy” with the deal and that it met all of the company’s objectives.

“We pulled together a package that we think can stabilize the linear video ecosystem and provide a glide path that gets us to the new direct to consumer environment,” she said.

Under the new carriage agreement, ad-supported Disney+ Basic will be available to Spectrum TV Select package customers in the coming months. Additionally, ESPN+ will be provided to Spectrum TV Select Plus subscribers as will the sports network’s flagship direct-to-consumer service when it launches.

“They have the linchpin asset in ESPN,” she noted. “You could not move to a new model without it.”

Meanwhile, Charter will maintain flexibility to offer a range of video packages at varying price points based upon customer viewing preferences and will use its distribution capabilities to offer Disney’s streaming apps to its customers, including its broadband-only subscribers.

“I think it’s a win for everyone,” Fischer added. “We’re really excited to be moving forward.”

While Spectrum will continue to carry ABC Owned Television Stations, Disney Channel, FX, the Nat Geo Channel and the full suite of ESPN networks, the deal notes that Baby TV, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FXM, FXX, Nat Geo Wild and Nat Geo Mundo will no longer be included in Spectrum TV video packages.

Going forward, Fischer said the deal would allow Charter to “moderate the growth in content costs for consumers” in future carriage negotiations.

“What we really envision going forward is having the use of our sales and marketing engine and our, and our bundling capabilities pulled together with the highest value content that’s available across the industry where we can offer packages to consumers that fit both their preferences and their budget,” she added when asked about how the deal would tie into its transition to streaming.

Xumo, Charter’s streaming joint venture with Comcast, is set to launch in the fourth quarter of 2023. Shares of Charter have climbed 27.6% year to date.

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