Yesterday, Disney and Spectrum agreed to a deal to bring Disney-owned channels back to Spectrum Cable TV. But not all of them returned. As part of the deal, Disney agreed to remove Disney Junior, Disney XD, Freeform, FXM, FXX, Nat Geo Wild, and Nat Geo Mundo from Spectrum’s lineup. This comes as Spectrum customers will instead get access to Disney+ and ESPN+ for free, depending on their package.
This is very similar to what Disney is doing in parts of Europe and Australia, as Disney shut down many of its Disney channels. Instead, Disney is driving customers to Disney+ to replace these channels.
It’s happening here now. FX will remain, but FXX and FXM are gone. The Disney Channel stays on Spectrum, but Disney Junior and Disney XD are both gone. Even Freeform didn’t make the cut, as Disney has agreed to remove it from its TV service.
This raises the question about what the future is for those channels. Now that Spectrum, the second largest provider of live TV, has gotten Disney to agree to reduce the number of channels they must offer to keep ESPN, others will likely demand the same. Increasingly, most of these smaller channels now run only repeats with no new programming. This raises the question of why any cable company would keep them around if that content is on Disney+ or Hulu.
Already, insiders are saying multiple satellite and cable TV companies are looking at how they can follow Spectrum’s example and drop some channels from their packages. This could quickly result in multiple channels getting removed from cable lineups and possibly disappearing altogether.
That the majority of the channels were dropped targeted younger audiences is reflective of the fact that cable TV’s viewers are getting older. Cartoon Network advertises itself as targeting a core audience of boys and girls aged 6-12, but 75% of its viewers are over 18 and 43% over 30, according to Statista. Because of this, Warner Bros. Discovery moved up the Adult Swim block by an hour to 5 p.m. to drive up its viewership.
It has even been reported that in 2022, during the hours of 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., 68% of Cartoon Networks’ audience was over the age of 18. This time block has traditionally been big, with school-age kids looking to watch TV before bed. But with kids increasingly turning to other screens, it’s easy to see why Spectrum was happy to drop networks like Disney Junior.
So why would Disney agreed to pull these networks? The company was likely under the gun to strike a new deal before Monday Night Football and made these concessions to secure better terms for ESPN.
But the impact on these networks will be huge. Ad revenue still makes up a large portion of how channels support themselves. Now, FXX, Freeform and the others will suddenly be in 14.7 million fewer homes, which could result in advertisers cutting back. That, more than anything, could be the final nail that forces Disney to shut down these networks as they become less profitable over time.
Disney will have some tough decisions over the next few months and years. The question now looks like when, and not if, Disney will start to shut down some of its smaller cable channels.