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Warner Bros/Max Have Perpetrated Attempted Murder on the Cable Box

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 20, 2023 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | September 20, 2023 |


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There’s a reason why the carriage dispute between Charter/Spectrum and Disney was such a big deal, and that reason is coming sharply into focus. The Spectrum/Disney fracas was mostly about live sports, specifically ESPN, the single biggest reason to still own cable. Cable is also the only way to truly watch ESPN, so some subscribers have been paying up to $70 a month basically to watch Monday Night Football (it’s almost worth it for that new Monday Night Football theme song!).

However, Disney’s CEO has been threatening to either sell ESPN or, more immediately, offer it directly to consumers. That’s great for consumers who don’t want to spend $70 a month to get their ESPN fix, but it’s lousy for cable companies, who are going to lose a major reason to subscribe to cable.

Earlier this week, after settling with Charter/Spectrum, Disney continued the process of weaning off cable, signaling that it would air 10 more Monday Night Football games on ABC. This is significant because, first off, it means that during the WGA/SAG strikes, ABC can fill its Monday nights with the highest-rated show of the week. It also means that at least those with a digital antenna can watch Monday Night Football without ESPN. Recall that Charter/Spectrum made their deal with Disney just in time for the Monday night season opener (where Aaron Rodgers was lost for the season). Those games are now available to anyone, and you can practically hear the cable cords being cut. At least for those with digital antennas, nearly all the NFL is now available without a cable subscription.

Disney is not the only corporation to inconvenience the cable companies this week. Warner Brothers doesn’t have access to the NFL, but it is the home of the NBA, NHL, and MLB playoffs (as well as many regular-season NBA, NHL, and MLB games). More importantly, it’s also the home of most of the NCAA’s March Madness, including the Final Four games and the Championship. Those sporting events were previously on Turner or TNT, which were only available on cable.

That is no longer the case. Starting on October 5th, all of the live sports available on Turner/TNT will also be made available on Max in their new sports tier. That sports tier will be free to existing Max subscribers right up until March 1st, at which point subscribers will have to pay $10 a month to watch March Madness.

Additionally, starting next week, live CNN will be made available on Max.

CNN and live sports are making the transition to streaming. What reason is left to subscribe to cable now? There’s still some ESPN content exclusive to cable subscribers, but mostly it’s Fox News and MSNBC, the latter of which will probably move to Peacock at some point in the near future (Morning Joe is already available live).

In other words, Warner Bros/Max has attempted to murder the cable box. When Disney finally makes ESPN available as a stand-alone service, cable will officially be dead.