Kick in the head for college football fans awaiting season opening Utah-Florida game

College football fans waiting for kickoff in the eagerly-awaited showdown between Utah and Florida instead got a kick in the head.

The Thursday night season opener was pulled minutes before the game’s first play, with angry boosters for both teams blacked out in a dispute between Spectrum cable and The Walt Disney Co., owner of ESPN. The cable company serves 14.7 million subscribers, many of them infuriated by the decision.

“Waited all day for the SEC football kickoff between Florida and Utah,” wrote one angry fan on Twitter. “Only to have ESPN CUT OFF RIGHT BEFORE KICKOFF due to a dispute between Spectrum and Disney. This is awful, AWFUL. YOU MIGHT WANNA THINK ABOUT LETTING FOLKS SEE THE GAME.”

Tennis fans were equally outraged when the Thursday night U.S. Open coverage disappeared before No. 1-ranked Carlos Alcaraz’s second-round straight-set victory against Dominil Koepfer in Queens.

“We’re very disappointed for our fans and viewers around the country that Spectrum … could not resolve their dispute with Disney,” said U.S. Tennis Association spokesman Chris Widmaier. “We’re very hopeful that this dispute can be resolved as quickly as possible.”

The plug-pulling move came without advance warning, prompting a social media outpouring of angst from those expecting to watch the clash between the SEC team and their Pac-12 opponents.

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A second fan complained he couldn’t even watch the contest on his ESPN app: “I pay for so many things every month and I can’t get this game?”

JaTravis Broughton #4 of the Utah Utes tackles Jonathan Odem #87 of the Florida Gators during the fist half of their game at Rice Eccles Stadium August 31, 2023 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Those tuning in were instead greeted by a message posted by Spectrum laying the blame on the Disney side as Utah rolled to a 24-11 victory.

“We apologize for the inconvenience and are negotiating in good faith to reach a fair agreement,” the company wrote. “We offered Disney a fair deal, yet they are demanding an excessive increase … Spectrum is on your side and fighting to keep costs down.”

Disney responded by encouraging Spectrum to work with the media conglomerate to reach a deal, noting the terms proposed by their company were driven by the changing industry marketplace.

“We’re committed to reaching a mutually agreed upon resolution … and we urge them to work with us to minimize the disruption to their customers,” said the Disney statement.

In addition to blacking out the football game, subscribers also lost access to other Disney-own channels including ABC, FX and National Geographic.

“Spectrum Cable pulled the Florida football game right at kickoff,” wrote another angry tweeter. “A dispute between them and Disney who owns ESPN. We pay for ESPN so how dare they pull the programming during the game. I was already ticked off with them for not having internet one day last week. Refund!”

Larry McShane

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