Charter Communications says it is retooling some of its pay television packages to target budget-conscious viewers and sports fans alike.
Starting later this year, the company’s Spectrum TV service will offer two new packages to customers who aren’t quite ready to cut the cord, or who are evaluating different options to get the best TV experience for the price.
One package, called Spectrum Select Signature, will offer budget-conscious TV fans an option to subscribe to top-tier general entertainment, news, local broadcast and children’s channels without expensive regional sports channels and other sports-related programming. The other package, called Spectrum Select Plus, will incorporate regional and national sports channels for fans who are willing to pay a little more for those networks.
Chater did not say how much either of the packages will cost, or how much customers will save if they choose Select Signature over Select Plus. A spokesperson for Charter said the company did not have a channel line-up available to review.
Charter’s press release stopped short of saying Select Signature would not include any sports programming at all, and a person familiar with the matter confirmed that national channels ESPN and Fox Sports 1 (FS1) will be offered in the cheaper package. Both channels tend to be among the most-expensive offered on cable and satellite, driving up the cost for customers who just want general entertainment without sports.
Charter touted the new packages as a “new, industry-leading distribution model for regional sports networks,” which seems to place more emphasis on giving customers a choice between taking local sports networks or leaving them out. But it isn’t the first company to do this: Comcast for years has offered a plan on its Xfinity TV service, called Limited Basic, that doesn’t include regional or national sports networks and is often cheaper than the company’s advertised base package. Comcast doesn’t market Limited Basic to new customers; existing customers must call with a request to switch to the cheaper package, and can sometimes only get it if they are not locked into a service contract.
Still, the Charter news is big, in that a major pay television system — Charter is the second-largest by customer base, behind DirecTV and AT&T U-Verse — is starting to find ways to offer budget-conscious TV fans a choice between watching sports or saving money.