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Charter Launches $13 Monthly Streaming TV Service

12 Oct, 2015 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Spectrum TV Stream includes free Roku 3 player priced at $12.99 a month for Charter broadband-only subscribers

In what could lead to an online TV pricing war, Charter Communications Oct. 12 quietly launched “Spectrum TV,” a $12.99 month-to-month service that features a free Roku 3 media player and access to four broadcast channels (ABC, CBS, Fox and NBC), in addition to either Showtime or HBO.

For another $7 monthly, “Spectrum TV Plus” offers subscribers access to an additional 16 channels, including A&E, ESPN, Hallmark, Lifetime, Freedom (formerly ABC Family), Food Network, HGTV, AMC, FX, History, H2, TBS, National Geographic, Discovery and TLC.

The streaming services target Charter’s broadband-only subscribers and are being rolled out in conjunction with the Spectrum TV app, the TV Everywhere platform now available on Roku players and Roku TVs to authenticated Charter cable subscribers. 

"We will continue to add greater functionality to the channel on Roku devices, including on-demand, and plan to make Spectrum TV available on additional consumer electronic set-top boxes and screens," Charter CEO Tom Rutledge said in a statement.

The Roku 3 player is shipped within 48 hours, with billing commencing upon the initial order. A Charter spokesperson said a $5 credit is applied to the monthly broadband bill to offset the upfront fee.

Charter ended the most recent period with 4.9 million broadband subscribers, up 9% from 4.5 million during the previous-year period. The company doesn’t disclose separate broadband-only subscribers.

In effect, Charter, which is awaiting regulatory approval for its $55 billion acquisition of Time Warner Cable, aims to undermine Dish Networks’ Sling TV — the first over-the-top TV service.

Launched in February, Sling TV offers subscribers access to 20 channels, including ESPN for $19.99 a month. Additional themed content packages cost $5 monthly.

Other OTT television services include Sony’s PlayStation Vue, featuring more than 50 Channels priced from $49.99 and available in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia and the San Francisco Bay Area. Showtime’s OTT video service is available to Vue subs for the standard $10.99 monthly fee ($8.99 for PS Plus members).

Verizon is beta-testing Go90, a mobile app that delivers ad-supported programming, news and videos intended to ultimately target wireless subscribers’ data plans.

Separately, the National Association of Broadcasters Oct. 12 asked the Federal Communications Commission to halt the Charter-TWC regulatory approval process until the agency can complete its review of broadcast ownership regulations.

“The FCC has repeatedly failed its congressional mandate to review and update broadcast ownership rules while, on the other hand, approving massive consolidation among pay-TV providers,” NAB CEO Gordon Smith said in a statement. “The commission should fulfill its statutory obligation so it can better factor in the effect another combination of behemoth cable companies will have on local broadcast stations and the millions of viewers who rely on our service.”

Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC is obligated to complete a review of its broadcast ownership rules every four years, and repeal or modify those rules that are no longer necessary in the public interest as the result of competition. The Commission failed to complete its 2010 quadrennial review on time and announced it was combining that review with its 2014 quadrennial review, which the FCC has scheduled to complete in 2016.

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