Charter Tries Its Own Skinny Bundle

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When it comes to the TV bundle, thin is in.

Charter Communications is the latest major pay TV provider to target broadband-only homes with its recent (and quiet) debut of a subscription service called Spectrum TV Stream that starts at $12.99 per month.

Spectrum TV Stream’s base package includes local and national broadcast networks, plus multiplexes from either HBO or Showtime. In Madison, Wis., that primary offering also includes C-SPAN , HSN, QVC and AccuWeather.

For an additional $7 per month, subs can get Spectrum TV Stream Plus, which adds several cable channels, including A&E, ABC Family (changing soon to Freeform), AMC, Discovery Channel, ESPN, Food Network, FX, H2, Hallmark Channel, HGTV, History, Lifetime, LMN, National Geographic, TBS and TLC.

To help prime the pump, Charter is also bundling in a free Roku 3 streaming player. Charter recently launched a TV Everywhere app for the Roku platform that streams in the MSO’s live TV lineup, with plans to expand access to Charter’s video-on-demand library later.

At press time, Charter had not responded to multiple requests for comment on Spectrum TV Stream and whether the MSO is offering it yet in all its markets. Charter is in the process of acquiring Time Warner Cable and Bright House Networks, and has been telling regulators that its embrace of over-the-top video is a big selling point of the proposed deal.

Charter tipped its hand about a coming skinny bundle in August, when company CEO Tom Rutledge told analysts during the MSO’s second-quarter earnings call that Charter was working on a high-quality, low-cost video package.

“We’re working through programming rights and access platforms ,” he said at the time. “We haven’t found the right mix yet, and we don’t think anyone else has either.”

But an increasing number of pay TV providers are giving it a shot.

Dish Network’s Sling TV service offers a skinny bundle starting at $20 per month, but has yet to add broadcast TV stations to the mix. Comcast, meanwhile, is preparing for a wide launch of “Stream,” a $15-per-month, no-contract IP-video offering that features about a dozen networks, including the broadcast networks, HBO, a VOD library and access to the MSO’s Cloud DVR and certain TV Everywhere apps.

Cablevision Systems launched a set of cord-cutter packages that bundle in a digital TV antenna, earlier this year, and Verizon Communications has rolled out Custom TV, which features an ESPN-free “Base” package that features more than 35 channels, including broadcast channels.

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