The long-lasting cold war between the Walt Disney Company and cable provider Spectrum turned into a full-blown, take-no-prisoners nuclear war at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 31.

The victims of that war were the thousands and thousands of Spectrum viewers who had sat down to watch the first day of the first full weekend of the 2023-2024 college football season, not to mention the many tennis fans who were in the midst of enjoying exciting matches in the 2023 US Open.

In the middle of tennis matches and football games, with no warning, numerous channels suddenly went dark, only to instead display a full-screen continuously scrolling message from Spectrum that blamed the complete debacle on Disney.

The message read, in part, “The Walt Disney Company has removed their programming from Spectrum which creates hardship for our customers. We offered Disney a fair deal, yet they are demanding an excessive increase. They also want to limit our ability to provide greater customer choice in programming packages forcing you to take and pay for channels you may not want.”

The message added, “Spectrum is on your side and fighting to keep costs down while protecting and maximizing customer choice.”

In recent years, Spectrum has been consistently raising prices on its remaining customers, presumably to help make up the lost revenue from those moving to less expensive streaming services. But apparently those continuous price hikes weren’t enough to put Spectrum in the mood to pay for the Disney channels.

Spectrum cited the rising cost of programming as the biggest factor in higher cable TV prices, and stated that they are fighting hard to hold the line on programming rates imposed on them by companies such as Disney.

Disney, of course, is arguing that Spectrum is to blame by not willing to compensate the company fairly for the prime content that includes ESPN, ESPN 2 and many other sports channels, as well as Disney channels that kids love.

On social media sites, some blamed Spectrum, others blamed Disney, and others wanted a pox on both their houses.

In addition to the loss of ESPN and ESPN2, Spectrum viewers also lost, ESPN Deportes, ESPNU, ESPN News, SEC Network, ACC Network, Longhorn Network, FX, FX Movie Channel, FXX, Freeform, National Geographic, Nat Geo Wild, Nat Geo Mundo, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD and BabyTV.

ABC On Demand programming and the following local ABC stations were also lost: ABC7 Chicago, ABC7 Los Angeles, ABC7 New York, ABC7 San Francisco, ABC11 Raleigh-Durham, ABC13 Houston, ABC30 Fresno.

A Spectrum customer service representative said that an email to Spectrum customers had been sent out earlier in the week letting them know this might happen.

However, almost all customers were caught completely off guard because, in the past when these types of disputes have heightened, Spectrum has given extended and continuous warning and those disputes have usually been worked out before the plug is pulled on the programing.

 The customer services representative said that Spectrum support staff, like everyone else, was caught off guard by the sudden blackout Thursday night  He also said that Spectrum would be reimbursing customers $15 for the inconvenience.

He added that no one knew if the blackout would last “five minutes or five days.”

Of course, it could be five months, five years, or forever.

Now, the Saturday, Sept. 2 UNC Tarheel football opener against the South Carolina Gamecocks cannot be seen on Spectrum unless a deal is worked out by then.