US operator Charter splits offering with non-RSN sports alternative

charterIn another sign of the changing US TV distribution landscape and the competitive pressures facing cable operators, Charter Communications has revamped its TV packages to provide a cheaper option for subscribers not interested in regional sports networks.

From this quarter, Charter’s Spectrum TV Select will be relaunched as two separate services: Spectrum Select Plus, which will include a full complement of popular sports programming services and local Regional Sports Networks (RSNs); and Spectrum Select Signature, a service that will exclude certain sports programming and provide the non-sports fan a reduced rate option.

The two new options will be launched on a market-by-market basis across Charter’s footprint, depending on the rights it has in each market.

Customers purchasing the Spectrum Select Plus package also will receive local RSN direct-to-consumer (DTC) streaming apps at no additional charge, where applicable, and Charter may market and sell these DTC streaming apps to its non-video subscribers as well.

Charter said it plans to launch a direct-to-consumer (DTC) alternative for its own Regional Sports Networks (RSNs), Spectrum SportsNet and Spectrum SportsNet LA, which will be made available to all affiliate subscribers for free.

The new packages break with a rights model that required distributors to pay for, and make available third-party regional sports networks’ programming to over 80% of subscribers even if many of them never watch it.

Separately, Charter’s Spectrum Networks and pay TV service DirecTV have announced a distribution agreement for Spectrum SportsNet and SportsNet LA that offers a significantly lower penetration threshold, giving DirecTV the ability to target subscribers who want Lakers and Dodgers programming.

The move comes as US regional sports networks are struggling amid bankruptcies and attempts to build a direct-to-consumer streaming play, and MVPDs face the pressure of ongoing cord-cutting.

“The launch of Spectrum Select Plus underscores our commitment to providing our customers with the best sports coverage while ensuring our non-sports fans have options that meet their needs. This new model paves the way for a more flexible approach to the outdated packaging model for sports, and it puts the focus where it should be, on the customer,” said Tom Montemagno, EVP, programming acquisition.

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