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Sports bars in Billings are suffering channel disruptions due to contract disagreements



Billings, Montana – Millions of consumers nationwide are no longer able to watch any Disney-owned channels, including ESPN, due to contract conflicts between Disney and Spectrum.

Residents of Billings have also been significantly impacted by the conflict, particularly in the city’s sports bars. The opportunity to broadcast sporting events, according to Curt Grimm, owner of Tiny’s Tavern, is essential to his company.

“I mean, that’s what part of our business thrives on is people in here watching sports when they don’t have it at their home,” Grimm said.

Grimm was concerned about how the start of the college football season this past weekend might affect his company when he first learned of the issue.

“We were panicky, and kind of going, ‘What are we going to do?'” Grimm said. “But then, after we settled down and looked at it, we knew that we had sports channels that we could go to.”

Grimm is fortunate because Tiny’s Tavern has financial stakes in both DirecTV and Spectrum. Although it adds to the cost, Grimm claimed that the choice was made specifically in case something like to this occurred.

“We always thought that down the road this could happen with everything that’s been changing,” Grimm said. “But at least now we still have football coming in here.”

But there are channel interruptions on DirecTV as well. Since July, it has been impossible to find stations like ABC and Fox due to a dispute with Nextstar. The loss of channels has had an impact on business at Shooter’s Sports Bar, which has a DirecTV subscription, according to bartender Catherine Wilson.

“It’s just not fair,” Wilson said. “How does a small business survive like that? Sadly, people are going to go where they can watch the game because people can’t afford it at home.”

Wilson claimed that even if the loss of channels is a problem, purchasing additional subscriptions would be too expensive.

“If a little, tiny place like this can’t get some kind of discount, it’s definitely not fair for the owner,” Wilson said. “It’s expensive enough just buying these different memberships at my own home.”

Grimm’s business hasn’t been impacted, but even though he knows he has no control over the disagreement, he remains optimistic that a settlement will be reached soon.

“When you’re having to buy two different streaming devices, it adds up,” Grimm said. “It’s too bad that the two big giants are playing the game again and that the little guy takes the fall for it all the time.”


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