Spectrum TV Stream and the bundle's continued breakdown (2024)

Charter has launched a new Spectrum TV bundle that’s a little less bloated than what it usually offers.

The new package, called Spectrum TV Stream, costs $40 per month for Spectrum internet customers. It offers more than 90 channels, including cable news from CNN and Fox News along with entertainment channels such as A&E, AMC, Discovery, FX, and HGTV. What’s missing is equally notable, as the package does not include any local or sports channels. (Here’s the full channel list.)

Subscribers can sign up for the service online and watch through Spectrum’s free apps for Roku, Apple TV, Samsung TVs, Xbox, iOS, Android, and the Xumo Stream Box. Optional cloud-based DVR service costs an extra $5 to $10 per month, and taxes may apply, but otherwise there are no hidden fees.

I don’t expect Spectrum TV Stream to be wildly popular, and I don’t think Charter does either. Like Spectrum’s previous skinny TV packages, it’s merely a way to recapture a small fraction of the folks who’ve ditched pay TV service but still have Spectrum internet.

Still, the makeup of this particular streaming TV package is unlike most other cord-cutting options, and it’s another sign that the TV bundle as we know it is breaking down.

Cable without the sports

Spectrum TV Stream isn’t the first attempt to offer a sports-free streaming package, and it’s not even the first from Spectrum itself.

Most notably, there’s Philo, whose lineup includes non-sports channels from the likes of AMC Networks, A&E, Warner Bros. Discovery, and Paramount. It costs $25 per month with DVR service included. Frndly TV has a narrower channel lineup and starts at $7 per month, or $8 per month with DVR.

Charter also previously launched a streaming bundle called Spectrum TV Essentials, which cost $15 per month and had a lineup similar to Philo, but that package is no longer available for new customers. T-Mobile also tried to launch a bundle of non-sports channels as part of its doomed TVision venture.

Spectrum TV Stream has a couple of big distinctions from those offerings: It includes CNN and Fox News, and it offers Disney-owned entertainment channels such as FX and National Geographic.

Those inclusions put Spectrum’s offering into the same orbit as Sling TV Blue, which also costs $40 per month. But while Spectrum TV Stream has a larger lineup of entertainment channels, Sling Blue includes some sports channels such as FS1 and TNT. Sling also carries NBC-owned channels including MSNBC, Bravo, and SyFy, none of which are available with Spectrum’s offering.

Another fracture

In a way, Spectrum TV Stream is like the inverse of the forthcoming joint venture from Disney, Fox, and Warner Bros. Discovery. Those three companies plan to launch their own live TV service this fall, with broadcasts from ABC and Fox along with each of the companies’ sports-carrying cable channels, including ESPN, FS1, TNT, and TBS. The service could cost between $40 and $50 per month according to unofficial estimates.

The most noteworthy thing about the joint venture is that it finally de-couples broadcast and sports channels from the rest of the pay TV bundle. This used to be unthinkable, as programmers would insist on bundling all their channels together to maximize what they earned from each subscriber, and I predicted back in February that further fracturing of the TV bundle would follow.

That’s what we’re seeing from Spectrum, which is essentially taking the non-sports leftovers from Disney, Fox, and Warner, rolling them up with a bunch of other entertainment channels, and selling them as a $40-per-month bundle.

Will this alone transform the TV business? Probably not. Those who want a full array of news, sports, and entertainment channels will still be better served by bigger streaming bundles such as YouTube TV ($73 per month) or Hulu + Live TV ($78 per month). Meanwhile, those who don’t care about sports or cable news can just drop their TV bundles in favor of cheaper services such as Netflix and Hulu.

Charter likely isn’t expecting a huge uptake for Spectrum TV Stream either. Per the company’s most recent carriage deal with Disney, it must distribute ESPN to at least 85 percent of Spectrum TV customers according to Bloomberg, and this package doesn’t carry ESPN.

It is, however, another choice for cord-cutters, one that splits off news and entertainment from more expensive sports channels. The idea is long overdue, and hopefully a sign of more skinny bundles to come.

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Spectrum TV Stream and the bundle's continued breakdown (2024)


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