A new kind of cable package has arrived, one that will consolidate two increasingly expensive bills — Spectrum Charter cable and Disney’s streaming services — into one. It’s the kind of action we’d all love to do with cable 10 years ago when we all signed up for cable. This is exciting news, but for a rapidly shrinking audience.
This package is the surprising result of a long-running dispute between Character and Disney. Earlier this month, Disney-owned channels on Spectrum stopped working. There is no ESPN. No Disney Channel. No forex. Thanks to the way cable works, you won’t even be able to watch a free-to-air channel like ABC if you use Spectrum.
The two companies were conducting fierce negotiations and fierce competition. Charter, the second largest cable provider in the United States, with More than 32 million subscribers, I’m tired of the high prices of Disney Channels, especially the expensive crown jewel, ESPN. But with declining subscriptions and constant headlines about the death of cable TV, Charter was on the back foot in negotiations. Disney, with ESPN, has more than 150 million Disney Plus subscribers, Hulu has nearly 50 million subscribersand more 4 million Hulu with Live TV subscribershas not been.
In the end, the two giants agreed on a package that would be a win-win for both parties. Now, you’ll get Disney Plus Basic (that’s the version with ads) when you pay for Spectrum’s TV Select package. Spring for the Spectrum TV Select Plus package, and you’ll get ESPN Plus, too. The result should work as Max currently does: If you subscribe to HBO through your cable provider, you get Max for free; Disney Plus will start to feel the same.
Only, in addition to the built-in subscriptions, Charter takes a page from Amazon and Apple’s book, allowing you to essentially consolidate your bills. Do you have to get Spectrum cable because it’s the only internet provider in town? Well, you may soon be able to integrate Hulu with your live TV streaming service, too. Multiple services with one bill. This is a step up from HBO’s position where you’d have to cancel HBO and then sign up directly for Max if you wanted the pricier 4K version of that service.
The new package is a good thing for consumers. According to the 2022 C+R Research Survey42 percent of Americans pay for a Niswa subscription. So this new style of billing from Charter will mean one place to go and see subscriptions and add-ons when necessary. Think less. Buy more and cancel on your own terms (hopefully).
“For Charter, this deal was…about trying to save its industry.”
Clearly, companies have been a little hesitant to embrace this style of subscription. Streaming services want your money, and it’s a good idea to forget how much you paid. But cable is changing. Its power has waned, and Netflix CEO Reed Hastings’ persistent claim that “cable is dying” is more accurate than it used to be.
There are clear examples of cable’s falling star. Earlier this year, Nielsen and Leichtman Research announced that more people are watching non-traditional media like YouTube, TikTok, and streaming than traditional TV. AMC, one of the most powerful and popular cable networks, has partnered with Warner Bros. Discovery to put some of its content on Max. Warner Bros. has joined. Discovery to Paramount Selling part of their shares At CW to Nexstar. Meanwhile, Disney is considering selling ABC to Nexstar or Byron Allen and trying to figure out whether to sell ESPN, break it up for parts, or enter into a deal with another sports-loving company. The reason Disney agreed to this landmark deal with Charter in the first place is because it needs to continue charging lucrative cable fees until it figures out what to do with ESPN. That’s why it allowed Charter to drop some of its smaller networks like Freeform (the channel formerly known as ABC Family).
“You can’t move to a new, transformative model without ESPN.”
For Charter, this deal was less about the added value of Disney Plus and ESPN Plus and more about trying to save its industry. At an investor conference in New York two days after the announcement, Charter Chief Financial Officer Jessica Fisher said He was clearly optimistic about the dealShe told attendees she could “stabilize” the struggling pay-TV industry, particularly retaining the rights to ESPN.
“You can’t move to a new, transformative model without ESPN,” Fisher said. according to Bloomberg. “We were willing to accept those kind of market price increases, but it was really because we knew they had those core assets and we needed them to be the first movers to get us into this transformative model.”
It can be a very transformative model. If other major streaming services like Paramount, Peacock, and Starz are offered through the same bill you pay for your cable, that could bring in more subscribers and give cable more time.
But that won’t help with the two biggest streaming services: Netflix and Amazon Prime Video. They don’t have any linear streaming channels to put on cable, and with the vast majority of the US subscribing to avoid pop culture FOMO or because the service also offers super-fast charging, neither company really needs cable companies to bundle up.
Which is unfortunate because, while the new cable bundle may not save the cable industry, it will make things a lot more convenient…provided you remain one of those increasingly rare people: those who still subscribe to cable.
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