Media Stocks Tumble Following Disney-Charter Dispute

Shares of several big media and entertainment companies tumbled Friday as investors considered the potential fallout from an impasse between cable giant Charter Communications and media titan Walt Disney Co.

On Thursday, Disney said it had pulled major networks such as ESPN and ABC from Charter systems after the two companies could not come to terms on a renewal of their carriage license. Charter’s systems reach a little under 15 million subscribers in markets that include New York City and Los Angeles.

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Charter raised eyebrows Friday morning by declaring that it could not strike a traditional renewal pact with Disney while more cable subscribers were fleeing to streaming video on demand. Agreeing to carry ESPN for more money, argued Charter CEO Christopher Winfrey during an investor call, was “untenable” as Disney made suggestions in the market that it planned eventually to make its sports content available more fully for streamers in stand-alone fashion.

Indeed, Winfrey argued that Charter was prepared to “pivot” from traditional agreements so that subscribers had more options about the programming packages they wanted to take, and more control over the networks for which they paid.

Shares of Charter were off nearly 3% Friday afternoon, falling $12.77 per share to $425.40. Meanwhile, Disney stock slipped 2.2%, or $1.83 a share, to $81.83 per share.

Paramount Global stock dipped 7.59%., or $1.14 a share, to $13.95. Shares in Comcast, owner of NBCUniversal, fell 2.28%, or $1.06 a share, to $45.70. Warner Bros. Discovery stock tumbled 10.16%, or $1.34 a share, to $11.82. Shares in Fox Corp. were off 5.66% or $1.87, to $31.19.

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