A new carriage agreement between Charter Communications and The Walt Disney Company will allow the cable operator to integrate the media conglomerate’s popular streaming services natively on its set-tops.
But the question now is, will Charter actually make Disney+, ESPN+ and Hulu native to its Spectrum TV user experience?
“The new agreement contemplates Charter’s future distribution of Disney’s streaming services, including Hulu, ESPN+ and the soon-to-be-launched Disney+,” reads a joint press release published yesterday to announce the deal.
“This agreement will allow Spectrum to continue delivering to its customers popular Disney content, makes possible future distribution by Spectrum of Disney streaming services, and will begin an important collaborative effort to address the significant issue of piracy mitigation,” said Tom Montemagno, executive VP of programming acquisition for Charter.
Charter has integrated Netflix on its Worldbox set-top platform. But the No. 2 U.S. cable operator hasn’t been nearly as aggressive as, say, Comcast in regard to making popular OTT services native to its pay TV user experience. In fact, despite declaring its intentions to integrate YouTube into the Spectrum TV experience two years ago, it’s unclear as to what streaming platforms beyond Netflix are watchable in the UX.
Update: Netflix integration is available to Charter subscribers who have the Worldbox 2.0 platform, which uses a hybrid IP/QAM set-top. How many of Charter's 16.3 million Spectrum TV users have Worldbox 2.0? Worldbox 2.0 rolled out in the winter-spring of 2018. Just prior to the deployment, Charter said it had around 2 million Worldbox 1.0 customers in the market. Numbers for the platform have been tough to come by since then. In January, Tom Rutledge, CEO and Chairman of Charter, said the company is deploying its Worldbox platform “on the increment” across its footprint.
It’s unclear as to whether Charter will even stick with Worldbox long term, with the company revealing in May that it has had talks with Comcast about licensing its X1 video platform. Notably, X1 is chock full of popular OTT services that are now native to the platform.
Disney last week announced that Disney+ would be bundled in with ESPN+ and the base tier of Hulu for $12.99 a month.