Video services

Charter Skinnies Down With New TV Bundle

Charter is slimming down.

With little fanfare, Charter Communications Inc. introduced a new skinny bundle of TV channels called Spectrum TV Stream earlier this month, combining the major broadcast channels plus HBO or Showtime for $13 per month. Channels are streamed online, and the Charter offer comes with a free Roku 3 player… at least until November 20.

For an extra $7 per month, users can access 16 additional networks, including cable favorites like Discovery, ESPN and FX. The pricing is slightly misleading, as Charter also tacks on certain taxes and fees. According to one Charter customer reporting on the user forums on DSLReports, the price jumped to $27.50 when he called to sign up for service.

Charter flyer for Spectrum TV Stream

Spectrum TV Stream appears to have launched around the same time that Charter introduced its broader Spectrum TV app for the Roku platform, although it is only available in select markets and to existing customers. But unlike the app, Spectrum TV Stream has received very little promotion, suggesting that either Charter is soft-launching the service with plans to market it further in the future, or that the company doesn't want to highlight a low-cost product that could put pressure on its video revenues. (See Charter Parks Its App on Roku and Skinny Bundles Sock FiOS Video Revenues.)

Charter has not responded to requests for comment.

Want to know more about pay-TV market trends? Check out our dedicated video services content channel here on Light Reading.

Charter is only the latest pay-TV provider to introduce a skinny bundle. Dish Network LLC (Nasdaq: DISH) was the first with the launch of Sling TV, followed by Verizon Communications Inc. (NYSE: VZ) with its Custom TV packages and Comcast Corp. (Nasdaq: CMCSA, CMCSK) with the slow rollout of its Stream service, which is expected to be available broadly in 2016. In Charter's case, the new skinny bundle doesn't advertise any on-demand video titles or any kind of digital video recording function. This makes it lighter on features than its competitors, which all offer either some on-demand content, or in Comcast's case, cloud DVR. (See Comcast 'Stream' Joins OTT Flood.)

Charter CEO Tom Rutledge did hint in his last quarterly earnings report that a skinny bundle was in the offing, but he also said at the time that Charter hadn't found the right mix of elements yet to launch an effective slimmed-down product. That struggle reflects the ongoing tension between escalating content costs and growing competition for consumer attention where customers are demanding both more video choice and lower monthly fees. (See Resetting the Bundle.)

— Mari Silbey, Senior Editor, Cable/Video, Light Reading

kq4ym 10/31/2015 | 9:46:29 AM
Re: TV networks going UTC The skinny bundles are cerrtainly becoming a more frequent choice for consumers. The idea will attract a certain segment of course, adding to the subscriber roles for those companies looking for new ways to get new customers. And Roku, as the larger provider of independent TV boxes along with HBO is seeking new cooperative marketing plans, so the fit seems right for the time.
NathanScott 10/30/2015 | 12:45:15 PM
Re: TV networks going UTC I agree with you Mike, we have way better things to do rather than sit & watch TV. Anyway the product seems to be great tho.

MikeP688 10/27/2015 | 12:04:05 PM
Re: TV networks going UTC I would also add one more point:  we have a lot better things to do with our time than watch television.    It is good that they are "seeing the light".  The question, though, is whether they are moving fast enough or not.     As for the "ROKU", it is a smart move because I have tested it and it is quite a vibrant device.   
jabailo 10/26/2015 | 10:21:35 PM
Re: TV networks going UTC Do you have channels for books (paper ones)?

With the Internet TV shows are now books.

You can produce a show, put it on the shelf (cloud) and see who want to buy (watch) it.

There aren't really channels because a channel is a section of bandwidth that restricts the content to being synchronous and broadcast.

There probably will continue to be hot production companies, the way Orion dominated quality movies in the 1980s.    But they will have streaks, and then losses.

If you follow this down to its nth degree, the only real value in the process is Authorship as Portals lose their grip on the marketplace.

danielcawrey 10/26/2015 | 8:55:55 PM
Re: TV networks going UTC I'm a big fan of this concept. Who would have thought in a future world consisting of 500 channels would many of us actually want less channels rather than more? I am one of those people, and I know there are many others that feel this way. 

Finally, the cable companies are coming to terms with this. 
jabailo 10/24/2015 | 2:42:00 PM
TV networks going UTC Under the Cable that is....the big TV networks now all have their own direct viewing Android apps some of them with Chromecast support.   I watched most of NBC's Adquarius streaming it from their App...and recently some episodes of 48 Hours using CBS app.

It's going to be hard to count regular TV networks as part of a bundle when you can get their programming for free, at least for now.  And why wouldn't they  make it free?

You know, after enjoying The Shield on Crackle.com's app, where they have the episodes with a few commercial breaks, I'm not so sure that the old way of short segments of TV with little breaks is all that bad.  Certainly you don't want that for a full movie, but for some types of TV like a sitcom, which is done scene by scene anyway...why not?

It would get grating on a series like The Walking Dead however, since AMC already sells itself for 50 cents a month, being able to continue viewing this quality of show on a stream like Netflix that costs under $10 seems completely plausible.

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