Charter Communications said it plans to launch an over-the-top streaming video service at the end of March dubbed TV Essentials to its broadband-only customers without a video service, in the cable industry’s latest effort to recapture pay TV subscribers.
TV Essentials will be available to Charter broadband customers for $14.99 per month and will include about 60 live TV channels and on-demand content from programmers like Viacom, AMC Networks, A+E Networks, Discovery and Hallmark. The service will be essentially sports-free, concentrating on entertainment and news programming. In addition to several entertainment networks like MTV and Viceland, Charter's Spectrum News will also be a part of the lineup in New York; Los Angeles; Tampa, Fla.; Charlotte, N.C.; Orlando, Fla.; and other markets. Beginning in May, content from Spectrum Originals -- Charter’s original programming arm -- will become available to all Spectrum TV Essential subscribers.
TV Essentials comes weeks after Comcast said it is developing a direct-to-consumer streaming platform using its newly acquired Sky plc’s NOW TV technology in North America and Europe.
AT&T, which already has streaming service DirecTV Now and a lower-cost sports-free service AT&T Watch, is planning a direct-to-consumer offering later this year. And then there are the existing streaming services like Sling TV, Hulu with Live TV, Sony PlayStation Vue, fubo TV, YouTube TV, Philo TV and others.
"Spectrum TV Essentials is an OTT offering designed to provide Spectrum Internet-only customers a new low-price, high-value video option," Charter chairman and CEO Tom Rutledge said in a press release. "As we began to assemble the rights for this new video service, we received great enthusiasm and encouragement from these key programming partners, who share our view and embrace creating an innovative video offering we believe will resonate with our internet customers.
“Notably, Viacom shared its strong belief and research that suggests there is 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," Rutledge continued.
According to Charter, the TV Essentials product will be available through its Spectrum TV app on all supported mobile and connected devices – iOS and Android phones and tablets, Apple TV, Roku, Xbox One, Amazon Kindle Fire, Samsung Smart TVs and computers via SpectrumTV.com.
Customers will be able to browse browse shows and movies by category or network, aggregate a "Watch List" of favorite content, set parental controls and in the coming months, Charter plans to introduce a Cloud DVR service on the app.
"We’re thrilled to expand and deepen our relationship with Charter,” said Viacom CEO Bob Bakish in a press release. “They share both our commitment to the evolution of the the Pay TV ecosystem as well as our understanding of the changing needs of consumers. As the video marketplace continues to segment across price points and offerings, we believe a high quality, lower priced option for internet-only subscribers is very important. We’re excited to have our global brands as part of Spectrum TV Essentials at launch."
Networks available on Spectrum TV Essentials include: A&E, AMC, American Heroes Channel, Animal Planet, AXS TV, BBC America, BBC World News, BET, BET Her, BET Jams, BET Soul, Bloomberg, Cheddar, CLEO TV, CMT, CMT Music, Comedy Central, Cooking Channel, Destination America, Discovery, Discovery Family, Discovery Life, DIY, Food Network, FYI, Game Show Network, Hallmark Channel, Hallmark Drama, Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, HDNet Movies, HGTV, HISTORY, IFC, Investigation Discovery, Lifetime, Lifetime Movie Network, Logo, MotorTrend Network, MTV, MTV2, MTV Classic, MTV Live, MTVU, NewsmaxTV, Newsy, Nickelodeon, Nick Jr., Nick Music, NickToons, Outdoor Channel, OWN, Paramount Network, Science Channel, Sundance TV, Teen Nick, TLC, Travel Channel, TV Land, VH1, Viceland, The Weather Channel and WEtv.