Disney-Charter Blackout Forces Tennis Champion to Stream ESPN’s U.S. Open Coverage on ‘Pirate Websites’: ‘I Have No Other Choice’

Russian tennis pro Daniil Medvedev is as frustrated as Charter Communications’ millions of cable TV customers that he can’t watch ESPN’s U.S. Open coverage because of the operator’s carriage fight with Disney.

Medvedev, one of the sport’s top-ranked players, revealed that he had resorted to piracy to watch the U.S. Open — and keep tabs on rivals like Novak Djokovic — during his stay in New York.

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“I guess in a lot of hotels, they have [Charter’s] Spectrum, so I cannot watch it on TV anymore,” Medvedev said a press conference at the tournament Monday night (h/t Tennis Letter).

He continued, “I don’t know if it’s legal or illegal, but I have to find a way because I cannot watch it on TV — so I got internet and probably this, how you call it, pirate websites or something, so I watched tennis there. I have no other choice.”

Actually, there are other options available: ESPN is available on internet-streaming TV services like YouTube TV, Hulu + Live TV, Dish’s Sling TV and Fubo, while Disney’s standalone ESPN+ streaming service ($9.99/month) carries U.S. Open matches as well.

ESPN, as part of its overall relationship with the United State Tennis Association (host of the U.S. Open), provides some discounted and complimentary subscriptions to ESPN+, which the USTA provides to players. However, this arrangement predates and is unrelated to the Disney-Charter dispute, according to a source familiar with the matter.

Medvedev, who is the No. 3 seed in the U.S. Open, is scheduled to play No. 8 seed and Russian compatriot Andrey Rublev in a men’s quarterfinal match Wednesday.

Disney networks including ESPN and ABC went dark on Charter’s Spectrum TV service the evening of Aug. 31 after the companies failed to reach a renewal agreement. As of the end of June 2023, Charter reported a total of 14.7 million video customers across the U.S., down 5% year over year.

Charter last week suggested that it might be ready to drop Disney’s TV networks from its programming lineup altogether — while Disney on Sunday told Charter subs to consider subscribing to Hulu + Live TV, which requires “no contract, no cable box and no wait time to subscribe.”

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