Taking deeper aim at video cord-cutters and its broadband-only customer base, Charter Communications is nearing the launch of Spectrum TV Essentials, an OTT-delivered package of more than 60 channels that won't include local broadcast TV networks and major sports channels like ESPN.
Charter said the new offering, to debut by the end of March and sell for $14.99 per month (plus tax), will be available within the MSO's service footprint. Thus it falls short of a national OTT offering and, therefore, is not a declaration of war against other US cable operators.
Charter also announced it plans to add a cloud DVR service for the Spectrum TV App, and that, starting this May, it also will offer a slate content under the "Spectrum Originals" banner to all Spectrum TV Essential customers.
Charter will deliver the new OTT service via the Spectrum TV App, which currently supports iOS and Android mobile devices, Apple TV boxes, Roku players and Roku TVs, Xbox One consoles, Amazon Kindle Fire devices, Samsung smart TVs and web browsers (via SpectrumTV.com).
Charter's newest offering is certainly a move to address a growing cord-cutting trend, one no doubt designed to discourage its broadband subs from defecting to various competitive OTT-TV services. Charter lost 36,000 residential video subs in Q4 2018, ending with 16.1 million, and added 289,000 residential broadband subs, for a grand total of 23.62 million.
Notably, Charter's home broadband service is cap-free, so the new OTT-delivered Spectrum TV Essentials won't be saddled with any usage-based data restrictions.
Spectrum TV Essentials appears to be the most directly competitive with Philo, which is backed by Viacom, AMC and Discovery, and offers a sports-free, entertainment-focused OTT-TV package, plus a cloud DVR capability, starting at $16 per month.
In addition to the channel lineup, which includes networks from Viacom, Discovery Networks, A&E Networks, AMC Networks and Hallmark, Spectrum TV Essentials also will give subscribers access to a library of VoD titles from those programming partners.
In a statement, Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said the programmers, particularly Viacom, shared a belief there's a "large untapped opportunity for a low-priced, entertainment-only bundle unencumbered by the high cost of broadcast retransmission consent fees and expensive sports programming."
The MSO is interested in selling video packages that appeal to different segments of the consumer base, and this new entrant is expected to be especially attractive to consumers who may already use over-the-air TV antennas to watch local broadcast stations and are looking to supplement with a selection of popular, entertainment programming, a Charter official noted.
The MSO also markets two home-based, managed IPTV services, Spectrum TV Stream and Spectrum TV Choice, that run on supported TV-connected retail devices (rather than a Charter-supplied set-top box), and include access to local major broadcast channels and a selection of national cable channels.
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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading