Disney Is Dropping Its Best Channel

By Robert Scucci | Updated


One of the conditions of Disney’s landmark deal with Charter Communications was dropping Freeform from Spectrum channel lineups as Disney places a stronger emphasis on their streaming revenue models, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Though this may come as a disappointment for the nearly 15 million Charter customers who used to access Freeform through a linear distribution model, it’s worth noting that even before this deal, most of the network’s programming was already available on Hulu.

As customer demands continue to trend toward streaming, it makes sense that Disney would make this move, but the short-term fallout has left both customers and network employees alike wondering about the future of Freeform.

Freeform Programming Is Still Available On Streaming

Fortunately, although this Disney deal removed Freeform from cable, the network still has a strong viewership on Hulu. In fact, a majority of Freeform’s viewership comes from delayed viewing through streaming.

The truth of the matters is that most viewers don’t plant themselves firmly in front of their TV to watch a show the second it premieres, but rather watch it at their earliest convenience through streaming.

One of the conditions made before solidifying the Disney/Charter deal was that Disney would offer the ad-supported tier of Disney+ to Spectrum TV Select customers for free. Unfortunately, even though access to Disney+ will allow customers to watch certain programs on the streaming platform, Freeform’s content typically tunnels through the Hulu pipeline.

The short-term fallout has left both customers and network employees alike wondering about the future of Freeform.

But there have been reports that Disney+ will have a Hulu tab coming to the platform sometime in 2024, meaning that Charter customers will (hopefully) be able access to Freeform content through streaming.

And if you think about it, the timing of this deal couldn’t be any better. 10-day service disruptions aside, we are in the middle of an ongoing writers strike, so Disney’s deal with Charter hasn’t necessarily disrupted the creation of Freeform content while the entire entertainment industry is in this current state of flux.

Presently, Freeform is gearing up for its annual month-long “31 Nights of Halloween” schedule, which will include the airing of films like Hocus Pocus, The Nightmare Before Christmas, and Halloweentown, among others.

Freeform Through The Years

Before the current Disney deal, the Freeform network has changed hands many times over the decades since its inception in 1977. Freeform has come a long way since it was founded by evangelist Pat Robertson, marking the first satellite basic cable network in America.

Freeform’s earliest programming included Christian talk shows, sermons, and a mix of classic Westerns, before gearing toward original programming.

Before Disney acquired Freeform in 2001, the channel was branded as The Family Channel in the 1980s, and the Fox Family Channel in the late 1990s. After Disney acquired Fox Family, the network that eventually became ABC Family, and a staggering amount of branding initiatives would take place over the years before finally transforming into the Freeform network that we’re familiar with today.

In other words, Disney removing Freeform from cable is just yet another transition that the network will see, and likely thrive under if properly prioritized.

As intellectual property giants like Disney continue to restructure and place a stronger emphasis on streaming over traditional linear models, then we can expect more of the same from other companies if this venture proves to be successful in the long-term.