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Disney, Charter Set Mammoth Carriage Deal That Opens Door for Disney Plus Distribution

Disney and Charter Communications have reached a mammoth carriage agreement that covers 22 cable channels and sets a framework for the companies working together on future distribution of the Disney Plus and ESPN Plus streaming services.

The multi-year pact encompasses carriage of ESPN’s latest college football offering, ACC Network, featuring Atlantic Coast Conference games. It also covers ABC’s eight O&O stations as well as Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPNU, ESPNEWS, ESPN Deportes, ESPN Goal Line, ESPN Bases Loaded, SEC Network, Longhorn Network and new additions for Disney from its 21st Century Fox purchase: FX, FXX, FXM, Fox Life, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo and BabyTV.

The companies said the deal “contemplates Charter’s future distribution” of Disney Plus and ESPN Plus. The launch of Disney Plus in November is a touchy subject for Disney and its MVPD partners. The agreement sets a blueprint for Disney to provide incentives to Charter to market Disney Plus and ESPN Plus as a stand-alone broadband offerings — given that premium content offerings can be a way to help Charter market its broadband service. It also allows for future discussions about Charter integrating both apps into its latest set-top boxes, as Comcast has done with Netflix.

Disney and Charter have also agreed to work together on battling content piracy and password-sharing among customers who use Charter’s authenticated on-demand platforms.

“This agreement will allow Spectrum to continue delivering to its customers popular Disney content, makes possible future distribution by Spectrum of Disney streaming services, and will begin an important collaborative effort to address the significant issue of piracy mitigation,” said Tom Montemagno, Charter’s exec VP of programming acquisition.

Charter is the nation’s second-largest cable operator behind Comcast with 15.8 million video subscribers. Charter and other MVPDs have been taking a hard line on new carriage deals with cable programmers. But Disney has such breadth of content that it has the clout to add an 11th outlet, the ACC Network, to its list of ESPN-affiliated sports channels. ACC Network is set to debut Aug. 22.

“Our new agreement with Charter allows us to continue serving Spectrum TV customers with the full value of the Walt Disney Television and ESPN networks, including the newly acquired FX and Nat Geo networks,” said Sean Breen, senior VP of Disney Media Distribution. “ACC fans can also rest assured that they will be able to watch their favorite teams on Spectrum, one of the largest distributors across the ACC footprint, when ACC Network launches next week.”

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