U.S. Open Players Caught In Disney-Charter Carriage Standoff Get ESPN Access To Watch Matches

In addition to disrupting tennis fans’ viewing experience, the ongoing carriage dispute between Disney and Charter Communications, which saw Disney linear networks, including ESPN, go dark on Charter’s Spectrum cable systems last Thursday, is wreaking havoc on players’ preparation for matches at the year’s final Grand Slam.

Superstars Coco Gauff and Daniil Medvedev shared their frustration over not being able to watch tournament matches at their hotel, with the latter admitting that he had to resort to bootlegged online feeds.

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Even ESPN’s own John McEnroe, in his return to the commentators’ booth on Labor Day, referenced the fact that he didn’t watch as much coverage of the tournament as he would’ve liked while sidelined with Covid because of the Disney-Charter carriage dispute.

According to sources, ESPN, the network that carries U.S. Open with an assist from sibling ABC, has remedied the issue for about 15-20 athletes, outside press and internal ESPN talent who have been granted complimentary access to match coverage via Hulu + Live while staying in New York City, a top Spectrum market.

The relatively small number of activated accounts reflects the fact that the U.S. Open is now in its final stages, with the last singles and doubles quarterfinal matches played today.

At a post-match press conference Monday, No. 3 Medvedev was asked whether he would watch the Tuesday highly anticipated popcorn match between Americans Frances Tiafoe and Ben Shelton.

‘I don’t know if it’s legal or illegal, but I have to find a way because I cannot watch it on TV anymore,’ he said. “I got internet – how do you call it? – pirate websites, I watch tennis there. I have no other choice.”

He added that he was hopeful to be able to watch the match on his phone if Disney and Charter reached an agreement, something that has not happened yet.

Similarly, Gauff, in her post-match interview Tuesday after beating Jeļena Ostapenko, noted that she couldn’t watch her opponent’s previous match in which she scored an upset win over world No.1 Iga Świątek.

“I’m not going to get into that but we can’t watch ESPN at our hotel. I saw the scoreline; I didn’t see the match,” she said.

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